Managing a New Start
Managing a New Start
Burlington's new city manager feels welcomed.
By MICHAEL ANDERSON
When asked about his first day on the job, Burlington's new city manager, Jim Ferneau, smiled and said it had been a long one.
"A lot of information, a lot of new faces," he said.
Though Ferneau said the day's pace was hectic, City Hall staff made him feel welcome, and it seemed most people were excited to have him on board.
"The first day I felt a lot of welcoming from people. I'm optimistic that I will quickly get to know what's going on," he said. "I encourage people where they have issues or concerns to make sure that they are brought forward."
Ferneau noted he still must settle in, and though he may not be able to immediately resolve everything brought to his attention, it is nonetheless important he hear what people think about the issues affecting them.
He complimented Burlington Police Chief Dan Luttenegger for his nearly five months serving as the interim city manager.
"Dan's done a great job," Ferneau said.
Ferneau started Monday by meeting with staff at City Hall during an open house, finishing the day with an hourlong National Incident Management System training session in the afternoon.
The presentation, which covered local strategies for emergency response, was conducted by Deputy Chief Gene Wilkerson of the Burlington Fire Department and attended by members of the Burlington and West Burlington city councils and Des Moines County Supervisor Tom Broeker.
With a coffee mug in hand, Ferneau joined his new colleagues for the special 4:30 work session in council chambers.
NIMS is a component of the larger National Response Framework, a comprehensive plan by FEMA. The NRF provides guidance for first responders so they can prepare for and provide a unified response to disasters and emergencies.
Wilkerson said the NIMS training is done in accordance to a 2003 federal requirement. Municipal governments risk being denied federal disaster preparedness funds if they don't comply with the training.
"Way back when in 2003 when this first came out, it was a much bigger deal," Wilkerson said. "It was after 9/11, it was after the terrorist attacks, and there were a lot of things the federal government looked at and said, 'we're not doing very well.' "
Wilkerson emphasized the importance of a coordinated response to a disaster.
"The really important part of this whole thing is Incident Command," he said. "When it comes down to it, really the part that you may be involved in at some point, is the Incident Command System. This is really the part that locally, we use on a daily basis, and on big incidents you may become involved in."
The Incident Command System refers to the hierarchical command structure used.
"That's what the Incident Command System does," Wilkerson said. "We follow these lines of order in the ranks up and down."
He said it's important to designate a single command center after a disaster to minimize confusion. A command center can be a vehicle, piece of equipment or a room from which the direction of personnel and resources takes place.
By using a clear chain of command, it's easier for personnel from different agencies to cooperate with one another.
Wilkerson also emphasized communication, saying common terminology can help foster partnerships and understanding between departments.
"If my department comes to work your department, if we use different codes, it doesn't work. And if we use terminology and slang you're not familiar with, it doesn't work. So what's really important is that we all use a common language," Wilkerson said.
Councilwoman Becky Anderson asked when the city council would become involved in an emergency. Wilkerson said the council would be consulted in the case of a large-scale incident, such as a tornado.
"It's really more at the bigger event, but occasionally we need help with small ones, too. If there's just stuff that we're not comfortable with or we need advice on, and so we'll call upon the council and the mayor to help us," Wilkerson said.
Ferneau said he is familiar with NIMS training and said the process has become more streamlined since its inception.
"It's good to get us on track thinking through what Incident Command is about, and it's very important for the council and administrators to understand where their role is," he said. "We are part of that process, so it was a good training session."
"I think he's doing great," Mayor Jim Davidson said of Ferneau. "He got off to a good start, and I'm excited he's here."
Ferneau has a couple meetings and appointments to attend to this morning and plans to introduce himself around at the Burlington Fire Department later in the day.
"And at some point, I'll be able to review files to get caught up on issues," he said.