Piece by piece, local officials move to upgrade the area’s emergency response capabilities.

Piece by piece, local officials move to upgrade the area’s emergency response capabilities.

Piece one: On Monday, Jackson County legislators formally signed off on a 900-page document – the Regional Multi-Hazard Mitigation Plan – that more sharply defines roles and procedures for area officials during emergencies. The idea is closer coordination during and after disasters.

The federal government requires that such a plan be in place before it will fully reimburse local governments for costs such as damage assessment. It covers everything from protecting lives and property to public outreach to using wetlands and other natural areas to reduce hazards.

“It’s quite a document. We’ve been working on this for 18 months,” said Mike Curry, the county’s emergency preparedness director.

Piece two: Legislators approved an agreement with Mid-America Regional Council for emergency planning. MARC gets state money, through the counties, to carry out planning. Jackson County’s share is $24,000.

Piece three: MARC has announced that three Kansas counties will join in a five-county local planning group on the Missouri side. The Mid-America Local Emergency Planning Committee covers Jackson, Cass, Clay, Platte and Ray counties. Now Johnson, Leavenworth and Wyandotte counties in Kansas will join. The groups have representatives of local law enforcement, fire departments, EMS, local emergency management agencies, railroads and state and federal agencies.

The local planning committees work with private industry, schools and emergency response agencies to reduce risks from accidents involving hazardous chemicals. The Mid-America LEPC meets monthly to work on planning, training, education and outreach. It has put out a widely available emergency preparedness pockey guide, focused in such issues as H1N1 preparedness and has expanded preparedness efforts in schools.