Rockford conference geared toward emergency response planning

Published: May. 11, 2023 at 10:17 PM CDT
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - It’s not easy to plan for a disaster. That’s why the 2023 Midwest Emergency Planning and Response Conference helps first responders strategize for these situations.

Belvidere Fire Chief Shawn Schadle and four local first responders share with others what went into their emergency plan for the events that unfolded on March 31 from a tornado that hit Belvidere and caused the roof of the Apollo Theatre to collapse.

“It starts with notification response and planning,” says Schadle. “I think having panel all the way from the ema director to the hospital administration shows that it is a full circle and there’s many parts to it.”

Schadle and the other panelists agree the most important part of the plan that got them through that night is the relationships they built with each other beforehand.

“Major parts of that incident were operated or over seen by people in other departments and if we didn’t know their capabilities, and know them personally, we wouldn’t have had the trust to do that.”

“Being able to form those relationships, being able to meet one on one bounce things off of each other. And I came away here with a lot of good ideas of how we can make a response better for the future,” says Medical Director Dr. Matt Smetana.

One person who attended Thursday’s conference is Colin Pradel from Aurora’s Emergency Management Agency. He says one of the things he takes away from this conference is how to incorporate training into real world situations.

“It’s very eye opening just to kind of see what everyone else thinks, get to know each other from the different areas because if bigger things happen, we’re probably going to be helping out each other,” says Pradel.

A chief from the Loves Park Fire Department personally called Chief Schadle who left his personal phone at home that night, but his wife picked it up and because of it, Loves Park sent some help Belvidere’s way.

In preparation for the tornado police, fire and local hospitals from the Belvidere area participated in a drill that resembled a situation similar to what happened at the Apollo Theatre.

This is the 23rd year the conference has been held and the first since 2019. The Winnebago County Local Emergency Planning Committee hosts the conference.