Kent’s emergency plans discussed at city council

Brittany Nader

Bill Lillich, director of safety, lead a presentation before City Council Wednesday on the city’s emergency preparedness and response procedures. Lillich discussed the current issues he said most concerned people, one of which included school shootings.

“The good news is, we haven’t had these sorts of tragedies like other communities have,” Lillich said. “Each department’s roles are outlined very clearly, and together we can pull resources and be unified in our response.”

Lillich said the four basic phases of emergency management are mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery. He said recovery is the toughest phase to get through.

“If you recall, they’re still recovering in New Orleans, in New York and New Jersey after Hurricane Sandy. It’ll be years for them to recover,” he said. “But the recovery phase is what drives the mitigation phase. If you don’t learn anything from these experiences, you’re going to repeat your failures.”

Lillich said planning and organizing are keys to quickly and effectively responding to similar incidents. The Kent Police Department, Kent State Police Department, Kent Fire Department and local schools are working together to train their staffs to plan for and respond to emergencies.

Jim Soyars, director of business services at Kent City Schools, said the schools collaborate with the city to provide the locations of security cameras, electric and gas in the case of an incident.

“We give out all the information we can give so first responders can get to the scene and get right into the building,” Sawyer said.

Matt Radigan, police support services manager at Kent State, said the university collaborates with the department to provide the most up-to-date floor plans for each building on campus via a private website. This allows the plans to be updated quickly.

“The more information you can get first responders, the better they can do their job and mitigate some of those risks,” Radigan said.

Michelle Lee, Kent Police Department chief, said evacuation plans are another important step in preparing for and responding to emergencies. She said any school with 20 or more students has to have evacuation or lockdown plans and regular drills. Officers stay involved in the local schools by walking around to get to know the staff and the layouts of the buildings.

“Maps are good, but if you know where you are and have to go, that’s a priority,” Lee said. “These plans are not just designed for schools. They could be designed for businesses or any area that has multiple people.”

Dave Manthey, Kent Fire Department chief, said certain buildings on campus, including Williams, Smith and Cunningham Halls, as well as the Liquid Crystal Institute, are labeled hazard buildings. He said high-occupancy, multi-family buildings, as well as those with science labs, are especially important for first responders to be able to easily locate inside and out.

“We all know, yes, Sandy Hook was one particular incident, but [an emergency] could happen anywhere,” Manthey said. “We’ve got to be prepared for this.”

Manthey said the fire department is currently focusing on determining staging locations for school emergencies. The department also looks for locations to bring in additional fire units, medical units and landing zones in case an injured person needs to be flown via helicopter to receive medical attention.

Manthey said the department is also reviewing safe locations for parents to go so they do not impede on fire and police operations. He said the department is in talks with the police department to develop instant first-aid kits for each police cruiser.

Roger Sidoti, council-at-large, said he was impressed by the cooperation between the police and fire departments and the city’s schools.

“The departments have a job to do, schools have a job to do, but we serve the same clients,” Sidoti said. “It’s so critical to understand they’re the same clients, and we all care deeply about them and we have to be prepared.”

Contact Brittany Nader at [email protected].