Mountain Grove Fire Department assists in tornado disaster relief - Mountain Grove News-Journal : News

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Mountain Grove Fire Department assists in tornado disaster relief

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Posted: Wednesday, July 3, 2019 4:20 pm

The Mountain Grove Fire Department (MGFD) was called to assist with tornado damage emergency efforts on May 21 in Hartville. According to the National Weather Service, an EF1 tornado traveled nearly 22 miles after first touching down in Mansfield, causing most of the damage in the Hartville area and finally lifting west of Manes.

Fire Department personnel found it difficult to get to their assigned locations due to heavy traffic from people trying to look at the damage.

Lt. David Todd reported “wall to wall traffic” which greatly hindered the emergency efforts. This prompted a Facebook post from the Lieutenant speaking to their followers about this experience.

“It took us 15 to 20 minutes to get there because town was so packed. Even with our emergency lights on, people aren’t moving. They want to see the devastation,” Todd said.

The storm damaged the Town and Country grocery store in Hartville, other businesses, homes as well as uprooting trees and causing other damage.

The Mountain Grove Fire Department follows a strict chain of comFire Department follows a strict chain of command when responding to a disaster.

They first received a request to arrive in Hartville and help with relief. Hartville requested brush trucks, personnel and chainsaws.

When arriving in Hartville, they made contact with what is called fire mutual aid - a radio communications channel all agencies use where they are able to ask Incident Command where they are needed.

“They sent us to what we call a stationary,” Todd stated.

A stationary is an area where emergency personnel can gather, share vehicles and arrive at Incident Command.

“From there, they take our names down. What departments are present and how many are there. Then, they get your highest ranking official and take their number. This is so they have constant contact with the different departments and they are able to give you your orders as where to go,” Todd explained.

Logistics, an incident commander, media liaisons, public safety—there are tiers to this system which helps emergency services assess a system which has been thrown into chaos and reorganize it.

“We’re trained to calm down, think it through,” Todd said. “Let’s get organized like this situation needs to be, because it’s not about just showing up and going to every house. That’s not how these checks and balances work. You always follow your chain of command. So we try to stick to that the best we can.”

That is why Incident Control, a checks and balances system, is so important.

“People may say they’ve checked that house, and they didn’t. Or it wasn’t checked thoroughly, like it needs to be truly be checked,” Todd explained.

“It [traffic] was at a grinding halt. And now we have to think about their safety,” Todd stated.

He also expressed frustration while watching television news and seeing people drive over live power lines in town. He noted that sometimes the interviews were with people who did not even reside in Hartville.

“The more people you add, the more chaos it brings,” Todd stated.

He explained there are also emergency vehicles from fire trucks, police vehicles and even power/electric company vehicles such as Intercounty Electric Cooperative and SeMaNo. These are large vehicles that cannot get through a heavily trafficked area efficiently or quickly.

“There’s just no need for it. As a firefighter who is trying to get out there and save people’s lives … this slows us down. And it’s very frustrating. Why do you need to be doing that?”

This isn’t to say those who are looking to help their neighbors are a nuisance, nor are they unwanted. Todd simply reminds those who wish to do so to remember the emergency services already out there.

“Give emergency services time to do what they’ve got to do. If you live in town, if you want to check on your neighbors, that’s great. But don’t get in your vehicles. Start on foot,” he advised. “Vehicles are a massive hindrance. They shut the roads down.”

“Wanting to help is not a bad thing”, Todd stated. “There are simply certain things you must do. Either contact 911 or the local police department or fire department and ask them, ‘Hey, we want to help, can we?’. We then can say to please stay out or please go to a certain spot,” Todd said. “They really do need to make contact. The best route is to never simply show up. We have to get some kind of control over the situation.”

“Take a moment. Stop and take a moment and think about those who are suffering and give us time to do our job. It’s not worth seeing the damage and the carnage. Taking pictures is not worth slowing down responders who are trying to help those who desperately need it.”

Dispatched at 4 p.m., the MGFD did not return to their station until 9 p.m. that night after assisting other communities.