116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Iowa working on improving its storm response systems
Actions come after weaknesses identified in 2020 derecho response
DES MOINES — Most of the recommendations made in a November 2021 report on the state’s response to the Aug. 10, 2020, derecho will be implemented by the end of this year, while a few will remain in the works until next year, the state’s emergency response agency says.
New or improved systems for communication between government agencies and between government and private industries and charities were among the 19 recommendations made in the 27-page report.
The state has implemented many of the recommendations from that report, and more will be completed by the end of September or the end of December, according to the Iowa Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.
The 2020 storm, which featured straight-line winds that surpassed 140 mph, covered 770 miles from South Dakota to Indiana over the course of 14 hours and caused $11.5 billion worth of damage to communities, farms and crops, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Three deaths in Iowa were attributed to the storm.
The state’s response to the devastating storm was reviewed by a Tennessee-based consulting firm, which was paid $51,150 by the state emergency response department. The result of that review was the November 2021 report.
The city of Cedar Rapids and Linn County — which suffered some of the heaviest destruction in the storm — conducted similar, separate reviews.
Two recommendations in the state report will continue into next year — improving coordination with refugee and immigrant populations; and reviewing and improving the state’s disaster case management system.
The state emergency department is undergoing a holistic review of communicating with underserved, marginalized and underrepresented populations, including support for Iowans with cultural and linguistic needs. The department estimates it will implement that new strategy by the end of next June.
The department is working with the Iowa Department of Health and Human Services to establish an advisory committee to “develop an updated road map to disaster case advocacy.” That process will be completed at an unspecified time in 2023, the department said.
Many recommendations from the report already have been implemented, the department said.
For example, the state’s Alert Iowa emergency notification system has been designed to provide “a robust alert system” for any agency that requests to use it, the department said.
The system was implemented after some communities reported not receiving necessary warnings as the derecho bore down on Iowa communities.
The state also has implemented recommendations related to storm debris management, including assisting and coordinating with local emergency management agencies.
Still to come
By the end of September, the state plans to have in place new programs and means of communication to more efficiently and rapidly assess needs and vulnerabilities in the immediate aftermath of a destructive storm. Those programs include new internet-based capability to collect and display county-by-county infrastructure status and training programs, the state department said.
By the end of the calendar year, the state plans to have in place a food safety policy for use in emergencies, and a strategy to better work with partners like the American Red Cross on sheltering needs.
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