The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Local and State News

December 7, 2013

Honigsberg: Response to a disaster should be fluid

ENID, Okla. — In just a few seconds, Mike Honigsberg’s tornado “destroyed” a square mile of Enid.

This square mile, though, was just on a map.

The exercise was for the benefit of more than two dozen agencies and stakeholders in Garfield County –  many of whom would be mobilized in the event of a disaster.

Honigsberg, who is the emergency management certified director for both Enid and the unincorporated areas of Garfield County, created the scenario as part of a yearly “table-top” drill.

His goal was to get everyone visualizing how their organization would respond to a large disaster, and how they can best communicate.

Unfortunately, he said, the turnout at the meeting could have been better and only a few of the attendees sent back a questionnaire.

“I’ve gotten seven of those back out of the 27 that were here,” Honigsberg said. “You don’t get much input back from these things.”

He also said a lot of “key players” that should have been at the scenario meeting never showed up. That doesn’t sit well with him.

“To put this in a nice way, it’s not going to go very well at the very beginning when it comes to bringing the right officials in here, because they don’t participate,” he said.

Honigsberg commented that it’s not just a local problem, that complacency and lack of preparation happens everywhere.

“Until we take a hit and people die, not much is going to get done because that’s what’s happened in a lot of other places,” he said. “They didn’t take it very seriously until the big one hit them.”

Unchecked

Things happen a little differently in the Enid/Garfield County Emergency Management office.

Instead of creating a list of everything that needs to happen during an emergency, Honigsberg values fluidity in the people who work around him. It complements the very nature of disaster situations.

“If you write down everything, you have to follow that protocol” because of liability concerns, he said.

In his estimation, guidelines are better than plans. Following a general set of principles and guidelines allows Honigsberg and other emergency responders to alter a response depending on the nature of the event.

“You have to have latitude when you do these things. Because when you follow it to the letter, then you’re hindering response and it’s probably going to cost lives,” he said.

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