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Program managers lead tornado roundtable

Mock disaster preparedness discussion

September 15, 2012
By Fritz Busch - Staff Writer , The Journal

NEW ULM - Program managers from Mankato and the Twin Cities metro area led a tornado emergency preparedness roundtable discussion with a variety of Brown County and New Ulm agencies Friday at the New Ulm Fire Department Engine Station No. 1.

The discussion included sheriff and police departments, county public health, emergency management, New Ulm Medical Center, Allina Ambulance Service, Martin Luther College (MLC) and the American Red Cross, among others.

The scenario was a tornado that cut a two-mile long and one mile-wide swath across the south side of New Ulm, damaging 1,400 homes and businesses and killing several people.

Article Photos

Staff photo by Fritz Busch
South Central College Healthcare Emergency Program Preparedness Manager Eric Weller of Mankato speaks at a Brown County and City of New Ulm tornado roundtable drill Friday at New Ulm Fire Department Engine House No. 1.

"There will be lots of flat tires right after the tornado hits, before the clean-up begins," said South Central College Emergency Preparedness Coordinator Eric Weller. "Creating a Joint Information Center (JIC), incident action and communications plans are some of the first things to do."

The American Red Cross would set up an emergency shelter to house and feed disaster victims at MLC.

Weller said radio channels would be used to do disaster assessment and communicate between agencies.

City and county law enforcement would be involved with traffic control, safety and public health issues.

Discussion included the March 1998 super cell tornado that heavily-damaged Comfrey and St. Peter, which didn't have electrical power for nine days, according to an emergency management worker.

"Food like peanut butter and jelly is great. Chicken isn't," Weller added. "Just planning for volunteer help can take a week. About 10,000 volunteers came to help cleanup St. Peter after the need was broadcast on Twin Cities media.

The Minnesota National Guard arrived within a couple day. It helped city and county law enforcement set up perimeters and checkpoints around damaged areas to keep gawkers and looters away.

New Ulm Police Commander Dave Borchert said staging areas for volunteer workers plus donated goods and services could be set up at large parking lots and the Brown County fairgrounds.

"A tight perimeter is important to keep control," Weller said. "Highway 169 and other roads in and out of St. Peter were tightly controlled. Highway 169 was closed, which generated a lot of public interest in when it would open again."

New Ulm Mayor Bob Beussman and Assistant Fire Chief Tom Romane held a news conference. Beussman answered media questions about storm details. Romane thanked mutual aid responders for their help.

Region 5 Emergency Management Planner Harry Algyer stressed the need for good communication between responding agencies.

"There are many agencies across the state with lots of assets. Don't be afraid to ask for help," Algyer said.

Borchert said he thought the roundtable was a good training tool that was "practical and real life."

Romane said free online courses on related subject matter can be found at and through the U.S. Fire Academy.

Brown County Emergency Planner Desiree Hohenstein said free training is offered at Camp Ripley, north of Little Falls. She added that overnight accommodations are available for $25 a night.

Fritz Busch can be e-mailed at



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