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American COP Sep/Oct 2011 Digital Edition - Page 70
SUZI HUNTINGTON VANTAGE POINT In spite of damage and the loss of power, George Michalopoulos, owner of Mythos restaurant, called his staff in and served free meals to workers and citizens. ay 22, 2011 will be a day many of my neighbors and I will not soon forget. That’s when Joplin, Mo. was clobbered by an EF-5 tornado with winds over 200 mph. Having been born, raised and done my police career in southern California — land of earthquakes and wildfires — I had only seen images of tornado destruction on the evening news. I’d had experience with both of San Diego’s wild fire disasters in 2003 and 2007, and the implementation of our county’s mutual aid system. Although my exposure to the system was limited to being a worker bee following my assignments, I was under-whelmed with its operations. The underlying goals of keeping the community safe and moving forward with restoration efforts were lost in the schoolyard fight among too many out of control egos jockeying IT WORKS M MUTUAL AID: to be in charge. Joplin’s swirling funnel cloud of doom left a swath of destruction about 6 miles long by almost 1 mile wide. I now have a better understanding of how well mutual aid can work. In less than 48 hours, streets were sigEven some of the rescuers nificantly cleared needed rescuing before they of debris, encould help anyone else. abling emergency crews to conduct search and rescue missions and disaster relief personnel all descended respond more effectively. Fire, EMS and on Joplin, in record time. And by day police agencies from the four states re- two, police agencies from hundreds gion (Kansas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and of miles away in other states were reMissouri) were sponding. sending assistance It went like this: people self-resi m m e d i a t e l y. cued first, then the house next door, Even the National the block, and then the neighborGuard got in on hood. Citizens immediately went to the action. neighborhoods, and St. John’s HospiJoplin’s emer- tal, which was devastated, and began gency personnel helping. Some of these people may were kept avail- have just lost everything they owned, able to handle but that wasn’t the point. Fire, EMS the calls for ser- and cops started rescue efforts and vice while the work crews started clearing streets. allied agencies More people from the community were predomi- brought in their own heavy equipment nantly respon- and assisted with getting debris out of sible for search the way. Keep in mind, this happened and rescue, traffic at 6:00 p.m. on a Sunday evening. control and peSearch and rescue ramped up rimeter security. as more assistance arrived; teams Mutual aid didn’t searched building by building. Every end there; utility car and building was spray-painted by Day four — this canine and his handler are still going at crews, insurance the team who searched, showing the it. This kind of work is trying, even for the strongest. The company reps and date and what was found. There were emotional drain was tremendous for everyone. VANTAGE POINT Continued on page 68 70 WWW.AMERICANCOPMAGAZINE.COM • SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2011