September 29, 2015 - KTVI BY BETSEY BRUCE

ST. LOUIS COUNTY, MO. - St. Louis County Tuesday opened a new Emergency Operations Center in Ballwin Missouri. The center boosts some of the latest in technology to help St. Louis County residents in need of help and help coordinate disaster relief.

Reporter Betsey Bruce toured the new center today and asked a center official what can be done to help those who only have cell phones that don't broadcast the user's locations.

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February 25, 2015 - KMOX By Brett Blume (@brettblumekmox)

BRIDGETON, MO. - "We have the potential for a very, very dangerous situation in our community."

So said Dawn Chapman, who made sure not to waste her opportunity to speak for the first time before the St. Louis County Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) on Tuesday.

Chapman is a self-described "concerned Mom" and resident of the area near the burning West Lake landfill in Bridgeton. She has long been sounding the alarm over the potential health dangers to those who live near the site.

"The communication between the LEPC and the state emergency response isn't there," Chapman told KMOX News after the session. "It's a broken channel."

Much of the focus of Tuesday's meeting was on further making those who live, work and go to school in the danger zone aware of how they can best protect themselves, especially in the event of an emergency.

LEPC signed off on a plan to disperse two sets of pamphlets - one for adults and one for schoolchildren - on the same topic - a technique called "Shelter In Place: Keeping Safe During a Hazardous Chemical Emergency."

It urges landfill-area residents to purchase a large plastic tub and fill it with the following items:

- Battery-operated radio and extra batteries
- Weather radio
- Plastic sheeting
- Duct tape
- Scissors
- Water (1 gallon/person/day)
- Ready-to-eat food and utensils
- First aid kit
- Flashlight and extra batteries
- Towels and blankets
- Hygiene items
- Medications
- Cell phone charger

In the event of an "accidental hazardous chemical release" or other toxic emergency, residents are also reminded to turn off fans and HVAC systems, close doors windows and vents, and seal off a designated "Shelter in Place" room with plastic and towels, having already closed off windows with plastic sheeting and duct tape.

What is Chapman's concern if such an emergency would occur before everyone in the danger zone was prepared?

"Nobody would know what to do," she said. "It would be like it was when there was a fire on the surface of the landfill (in March '14) and nobody knew what to do and nobody had even called 911 yet. It would be mass panic and I think people would get hurt."

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File photo by Christian Gooden, cgooden@post-dispatch.com

November 3, 2014 - St. Louis Post Dispatch

ST. LOUIS COUNTY - St. Louis County's sirens failed to sound in the monthly test of its outdoor warning system.

The sirens in St. Louis city went off, but the county's did not. They were supposed to sound at 11 a.m. for one minute.

Officials believed construction work on the top of the county administration building blocked the radio antenna that tells the sirens to activate. David Barney, director of the St. Louis County Emergency Communications Commission, said officials were working to get the problem fixed, likely by raising the antenna.

The sirens are supposed to warn people outdoors of tornado danger.

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St. Louis County Emergency Operations Center

October 15, 2014 - Newsmagazine Network By: Jim Erickson

ST. LOUIS COUNTY - Some Central County Emergency 911 owners may be ready to have their dispatching services provided by the new St. Louis County Emergency Operations Center; however, a core group of users isn't sure the county option is a good one.

At the same time, CCE's employees also don't support the idea and warn that concerns about losing their jobs already have led to resignations - whose collective impact could affect the quality of service the Ellisville-based dispatch center provides.

In a letter to the CCE Board of Directors, chiefs from six fire protection districts "formerly served by South County Fire Alarm" along with the chief from the Crestwood Fire Department asked the board to reconsider any potential sale or merger that would join CCE with the county operation.

During the meeting, Brian Hendricks, chief of the Mehlville Fire Protection District, said word about what he described as "the inevitable shutdown of CCE" is "quite disturbing."

Conceding that joining the two dispatch centers could make sense and be in the interest of taxpayers, Hendricks said the reality now is that he and others have "no idea what we're going to get" in terms of a cost structure, what computer-aided dispatch (CAD) software will be used and what response times will be for calls involving fires and emergency medical services.

The chiefs' letter noted that an analysis of fire and EMS calls handled by CCE, and police-related emergencies going through the St. Louis County dispatch center revealed a major difference in the time required to process the 911 calls and send first responders to the scene. While CCE handles calls in 34 seconds or less 80 percent of the time, the comparable time for the county operation is 137 seconds, the letter stated.

"The gap between these call processing times" one minute and 43 seconds - is very significant," resulting in increased fire losses, delays in emergency medical care and ratings that affect fire insurance costs for property owners, the chiefs said.

Capt. Steve Sack, who heads the county communications center, acknowledged that police dispatching differs from that involving fire and EMS calls. However, he said the county is willing to meet whatever standards apply to handling the latter.

Control over tax dollars that fire protection districts collect and forward to CCE to pay for dispatching operations is another concern.

"If other areas of the county government are in need of funding, we fear that a situation similar to the way the cities were forced to pool sales tax money could conceivably develop," the chiefs' letter stated.

Les Crews, chief of the St. Clair Fire Protection District, added that he is concerned where he will go for dispatch services if CCE and the county center combine. Now served by CCE, the St. Clair district is based in Franklin County.

Greg Brown, head of the Eureka Fire Protection District and a member of the St. Louis County Emergency Communications Commission (ECC), which has overseen construction of the new emergency operations center, was the only chief from the former South County group who did not sign the letter.

Subsequent discussion noted county personnel recently had met with a number of CCE chiefs to demonstrate the new center's dispatching capabilities. Crews noted the CAD software package the center is using is one CCE had tried in the past and discarded as inadequate.

Returning to the open meeting after a lengthy closed session, the CCE board heard the South County chiefs say they would be willing to pay a higher price for dispatching services if doing so would keep CCE open.

In a letter to the board also read during the reconvened open session, long-time CCE employee Sheryl Hauk reviewed the efforts she and her colleagues had made to expand the operation to handle the added work load first from South County and a few months later from the North Central County Fire Alarm center.

Both the South County and North County dispatch centers encountered financial problems and had to close their doors last year. With the county dispatch center not yet complete, agencies served by both centers opted to have CCE provide their dispatching services.

CCE invested heavily and took on debt to finance equipment, communication links and other steps needed to handle the increased emergency call volume from the other two centers, anticipating that a major portion of the costs would be reimbursed by the ECC. However, the commission has tabled CCE's reimbursement application, saying the request failed to meet requirements for the funding.

Hauk questioned why the CCE board approved the expense and effort for the expansion.

"Why didn't you just keep all three alarm centers open until (the new St. Louis County center) was ready? Was it to make Central County not financially stable as an organization so then you would have an excuse to sell us to (the county)?" she asked.

Hauk said six dispatchers have resigned from CCE in recent months due to uncertainties about the center's future and their jobs.

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June 9, 2014 - KPLR

ST. LOUIS COUNTY - The brand new St. Louis County Communications Center has opened in Ballwin. It will be home for many important departments including the Emergency Operation Center.

Inside the EOC 14 different pods will be staffed by fire, police, health officials and representatives from every county department when something like a tornado rolls through a neighborhood. The EOC replaces the old center which was built during the Cold War in the late 1950's. Mark Diedrich is an Emergency Management Specialist. He said the old EOC was no longer large enough nor could it be updated, "It became more and more difficult to bring in new technology to that existing space."

The new 911 dispatching center is still under construction. It will open by the end of the year. Outside, crews were working on a tower installing special equipment for dispatchers who are now working out of Clayton. The old EOC was in Chesterfield. Now the two will only be feet away from each other. Diedrich said, "Every second we save gathering information and dissemination is what most likely is going to save a life."

The Communication Center was built at a cost of $17 million and was constructed to withstand an F-3 tornado.

It is also home to the new emergency radio system which allows fire and police in all metro departments to talk with each other during an emergency. This is the result of 911 when New York Police and fire fighters could not radio each other when terrorists attacked. Diedrich added, "What happened that day was the police department knew the tower was going to come down because they had a helicopter in the air and they could see it start to crumble and radioed policemen to get out of the building the fire department was not on that same system and that's one of the reasons so many firefighters were lost that day than police."

It's all about getting the best and latest information quickly to those who need it to protect and save lives.

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January 21, 2014 - St. Louis Post Dispatch

ST. LOUIS COUNTY - The county's outdoor warning sirens were accidentally tripped this afternoon during what was supposed to be a silent test.

About 2:30 p.m., the county's emergency management office was conducting a test when someone hit a wrong button, said Mark Diedrich, an emergency management specialist.

"Human error," he said. "The good news is that we know they work. With the number of calls we're getting, we know people are listening to them."

It might be a good time to check out some tips from the CDC in case of a real tornado.

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January 08, 2014 - St. Louis County Emergency Management/LEPC

ST. LOUIS COUNTY - We have been receiving calls reference a video on YouTube in which there are claims that the snowfall in St. Louis is radioactive. We just thought we would provide you with some information to help you understand what is being portrayed.

In the video that he states he is measuring in microsieverts and has a reading of 80 microsieverts an hour, which is equal to 8 millirems. 8 millirems is equal to a chest x-ray. You receive about 5 millirems a year from drinking water and about 5 millrems per trip traveling across country in a plane. (Smokers inhale about 280 millirems per year).

There is also research saying that this phenomenon is caused when the snow accumulates and natural occurring radon in the soil is "built up" (for lack of a better term) because it can't be readily released and causes a higher reading.

Additionally, we don't know if he has a radiation source under the snow (or off camera) causing the higher radiation readings. This is not a scientific experiment. He has no controls, only assumptions.

Bottom line, this is much ado about nothing.

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May 10, 2013 - St. Louis County Direct

HAZELWOOD - In the aftermath of the April 10th tornado, the Office of Emergency Management sent a message that triggered a first of its kind experiment in FEMA Region VII.

"We have been hit by tornado and/or severe thunderstorm damage in Hazelwood, Missouri and possibly other areas. Need help monitoring social media for any damage reports. Primary location is the intersection of Howdershell and Lynn Haven in Hazelwood, MO. Thanks for your help!"

On this message, over 40 people began scanning Twitter, Facebook, and other sources for people reporting damage, injuries, outages, or resource needs in the wake of the tornado. The message went out to the Social Media Collaboration Group, a collection of nearly 90 public information officers, social media managers, and other social media savvy volunteers from non-profits and government agencies across four states. Organized in March, this group was formed to provide trusted crowd sourcing and scour social media for important information during disasters. "St Louis County Emergency Management previously has used Twitter as a source of breaking information during disaster response, but social media monitoring can take considerable staff time. This assistance freed up local staff to work directly on disaster response. Meanwhile, the results were outstanding. Group members forwarded their observations to group leaders, who then delivered reports via email to the Office of Emergency Management every 15 minutes. We were able to rapidly discover new information from several different channels, information that we could have missed on our own.

As the response progressed, the same Social Media Collaboration Group became a channel to spread the word about calls for volunteers, available resources, and new information for those impacted by the storm. Those messages hit dozens of channels with a reach across tens of thousands of followers and friends. Ultimately, the experiment became a success in trusted crowdsourcing and collaboration far beyond what any of the participants expected.

"Our well wishes to those hit by the most recent weather event, but rest assured St. Louis County is always doing everything we can to ensure the safety of our residents.

Twitter Handle: @STLCoOEM

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