Town tests new emergency plan

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Photo provided Town of Beloit staff members join other local agencies to undergo Operation Cold Coffee 2019 last week at the township's fire department. The exercise allowed town officials to test its newly updated Emergency Operations Plan.

TOWN OF BELOIT - Town of Beloit officials were able to implement their updated Emergency Operations Plan after undergoing a preparedness and response exercise earlier this month.

The exercise, called Operation Cold Coffee 2019, was held at the Town of Beloit Fire Department.

Police Lt. LeAnn Jones has spent the last year creating the emergency plan, which hasn't been updated since 1999, as part of a capstone project for executive leadership training.

The exercise allowed agencies to test and evaluate the ability of elected and appointed officials to establish and staff appropriate Incident Command System (ICS) and Emergency Operations Center (EOC) structures.

Jones said response and recovery actions required the coordination of local and county resources and engagement of state-level resources in a fictional, but plausible natural disaster.

The exercise scenario included a significant late-season ice storm with freezing conditions, heavy snow and high winds that resulted in large-scale power outages and damage to water system infrastructure. Ice jams in the Rock River led to significant flooding throughout the Town of Beloit that required coordination of emergency evacuations and the establishment of an emergency shelter plan.

Town administrator Gene Wright praised the town staff for their efforts.

"This exercise demonstrated the ability of different Town of Beloit departments and agencies to coordinate their efforts to solve some pretty difficult challenges for our community," Wright said. "We were able to coordinate well internally and with key interagency and private sector partners to manage this simulated local emergency."

Town Chair Tammy Maegli agrees.

"The joint effort of all the town employees and officials was outstanding and I was impressed by their problem-solving ability, as well as their cooperation to reach a successful outcome," Maegli said.

Jones said the plan covers any event requiring the town to utilize a significant amount of services or to request services from an outside agency, such as extreme weather, a train derailment or house fire.

She said the plan allows for different departments to cross-train, communicate and respond to one unified plan.

The exercise was the third training event in a three-part series that also included a training workshop on Nov. 14, 2018, and a tabletop exercise on Jan. 16.

Jones said elected officials from the Town Board and members of the Town Administration, Finance, Fire, Police and Public Works Departments - along with representatives from Beloit Turner School District, Rock County Sheriff's Office Emergency Management, City of Beloit Water Resources, Alliant Energy and Rock Energy Cooperative - participated in the exercise series.

Jones will continue to add annex plans to the basic all hazards plan, such as plans to establish shelters and manage volunteers in the event of an emergency.

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