The city of Brainerd is prepared to handle emergency situations following adoption of a continuity of operations plan during an emergency meeting Thursday, March 26.
Council members met via WebEx, a video and teleconferencing system, to approve the plan and discuss employee duties after Gov. Tim Walz’s Wednesday announcement of a stay at home order.
City Administrator Jennifer Bergman and Fire Chief Tim Holmes explained the continuity of operations plan.
“It’s an overarching document that just really gives us guidance and something to fall back on in a situation similar to what we’re in right now,” Holmes said. “The plan outlines the preparation that we’re doing, the activity associated with the disaster or emergency that we’re in, and then the efforts to get back to normal, or the recovery side of an emergency.”
Included in the plan are the functions, operations and resources necessary to ensure continuation of the city’s essential functions in the event of an emergency, like a pandemic or natural disaster, when normal operations are interrupted.
Services that must continue uninterrupted during a time of emergency include emergency and disaster response; water treatment operations; fire suppression; law enforcement; snow removal from roadways; emergency road repair; maintaining building heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems; and network connectivity.
Council members approved the plan unanimously, praising Bergman, Holmes and the rest of the staff for such a comprehensive plan. The full plan is available at https://bit.ly/2USb2dl.
Council members did not activate the continuity of operations plan Thursday. In an emergency situation, the plan can be activated by three methods:
The mayor declares a local emergency and requests the plan be activated.
The emergency management director (fire chief) initiates the plan based on a variety of factors, including threats.
Individual department heads initiate their own continuity of operations plans without the overall plan in the event of smaller situations, like flooded offices.
Stay at home order
In accordance with Walz’s stay at home order, Bergman said 24 of the city’s employees will begin working from home. This list includes certain employees in administration, community development, finance, human resources, engineering, parks, fire and police.
Walz’s executive order directs Minnesotans to remain at home starting at 11:59 p.m. Friday, March 27, until April 10, except when performing essential functions. Those with jobs not deemed essential are encouraged to stay home from work or work from home if possible.
The police and fire chiefs, along with police officers and paid-on-call firefighters will continue reporting to work.
Seventeen street and sewer, parks maintenance and police records management employees do not have the ability to work from home, nor do the city’s four part-time community service officers. These employees must be available in case of an emergency and will continue to get paid despite not working, the council decided.
Those working from home will be provided with city laptops and tablets to continue doing their jobs.
In a memo to the council, Police Chief Corky McQuiston stated his officers will change their scheduling to reduce the risk of exposure to the novel coronavirus. Officers will eliminate their overlapping days and lengthen the amount of time off between work periods. This includes one day per pay period of precautionary administrative leave, when officers will be paid to stay home and not work.
The police department has not reduced any services to the community at this time, McQuiston stated, though officers try to reduce person-to-person contact whenever possible. They are spending minimal time in the office and more time on patrol.
The chief and deputy chief are set up to work from home and are alternating work weeks in the office.
Though he was scheduled to resign effective March 31, Mayor Ed Menk agreed Thursday to continue on with the mayoral duties until the council appoints a replacement. The council is expected to do so at its meeting April 6. Four candidates applied for the position.
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