Improved communication among state and local officials will lead to better responses to emergencies such as natural disasters.
That was the takeaway from a gathering Wednesday of emergency management officials, police, firefighters and military personnel at Fort Wayne's Air National Guard base.
They were there for Operation Force Multiplier, an effort run by the Indiana National Guard and the state Department of Homeland Security.
The initiative aims "to highlight their collaborative efforts to keep Hoosiers safe and respond to emergencies," according to a news release.
Guard and Homeland Security officials began holding meetings Sept. 5 in Terre Haute to discuss collaboration and communication among agencies that respond to emergencies including floods. The Fort Wayne visit was the fourth of 10 planned meetings.
"This statewide tour will increase knowledge and strengthen bonds with our first responders so that when local incident commanders face overwhelming situations they know how and when the Indiana National Guard will respond," Col. Jeff Hackett, Guard director of operations, plans and training, said in a statement. "We want to showcase the strong relationship between IDHS and the National Guard, which benefits all of Indiana."
For more than two hours officials discussed emergency responses in general and outlined procedures for how to contact state and military agencies that can offer supplies and workers to help in those situations.
Allen County Director of Homeland Security Bernie Beier said communication is key in situations where time is limited. He said his office once had to contact officials in Indianapolis, who would then have to relay requests for help to local Guard officials.
Now he and Guard personnel are able to talk directly to one another.
"This is gold," Beier said Wednesday.
For more on this story, see Thursday's print edition of The Journal Gazette or visit www.journalgazette.net after 1 am. Thursday.