Ontonagon feels it pays to be prepared

Kali Katerberg/Daily Mining Gazette The village of Ontonagon, in Ontonagon County, is one of the areas that the emergency operations plan would apply to in a crisis.

ONTONAGON — When disaster strikes, it pays to have a plan as Houghton County found this summer and Ontonagon County is ready for as well.

The County Board approved an updated version of the emergency operations plan Tuesday. Typically updates occur every four years to ensure resources and contacts are accurate. Though 2018 was the year for Ontonagon’s update, the pressure from the Michigan State Police has been on since the Houghton flooding to do so quickly, said Michael Kocher, emergency services director.

The plan lays out items like key players, the recovery phases and information coordination.

“The biggest emphasis I can put is having a plan in place in case something drastic does happen, at least you have something to revert back to, even if we never have something as extreme as we had on Father’s Day,” Kocher said.

He saw Houghton’s plan in action and used to great success. The efficiency was helped by semi-annual meetings with other local players and non-profits. Officials knew who to contact and often had their cell phone numbers already recorded.

“We were ahead of the curve on that one,” he said.

Emergency plans are required for every county in the state and Ontonagon is no exception. Not just for the response, having a plan in place in advance helps with Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) eligibility.

The only identified risk is Victoria Dam but there are always issues that can arise unexpectedly.

“It is in our best interest to have this document. Without it, we couldn’t do what Houghton did,” Kocher said.

The updated document was unanimously approved by the county board.