116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Cedar Rapids, Linn County and other communities are looking to improve on disaster response after last year’s derecho swept through Eastern Iowa, leaving almost all of the county’s residents without power and access to information.
The city and the county on Thursday announced a countywide Community Resilience Project to “build on expertise and success in times of disaster” and integrate “new learning” in exercises and planning, according to a news release.
The project will be led by Collective Clarity, a Cedar Rapids consulting firm headed by Leslie Wright, a former executive with United Way of East Central Iowa.
The project will develop exercises and simulations that anticipate disasters. Experts and citizens will be consulted in preparing the plan, which will be updated yearly to reflect changes in the environment, the release said.
The project will provide communication strategies that can be used during disasters, including making use of informal networks to share “real-time information.” Those strategies also will be practiced annually.
Cedar Rapids and Linn County are splitting the $30,000 cost for the six-month planning and design process, which will include production of simulation materials and supporting documents, the city’s Communications Division Manager Maria Johnson told The Gazette.
Marion and Ely also are participating, as is the East Central Iowa Council of Governments, which represents small community interests, Johnson said.
Cedar Rapids Mayor Brad Hart said the project provides an opportunity “to enhance partnerships and work together as a community to prepare and understand each agency’s role in a disaster.”
He said the project will incorporate findings from the city’s internal After-Action Report, which the city contracted for in March to assess the city’s response to the Aug. 10 derecho.
The report, being prepared by Tennessee-based Atchison Consulting Service at an estimated cost of $25,000, is expected to be available by midsummer. It will be used as a road map in disaster planning, the city has said.
“The derecho shined a bright light on the systemic inequities that have always existed for certain groups of people in our community,” Linn County Supervisor Stacey Walker said.
“While some aspects of the local government response were laudable,” he said, “we must own the fact that there are improvements to be made,”
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