It was a Saturday morning, 10 a.m., and I was preparing for a Council meeting. Yes, a Saturday morning Council meeting, and I found myself adjusting my cell phone to work with my headphones.
Our emergency meeting that morning was to vote on a resolution declaring a State of Emergency in the City of Montgomery to mirror what was happening in the State Capital. The President of the United States and the Ohio Governor each declared the State of Emergency because an invisible menace had invaded our neighborhoods. Our legislation was to bring the City operations in alignment with those of the State of Ohio. The resolution was comprised of nine sections outlining actions by our government.
This response did not take place in a vacuum. Concurrently, several local entities initiated actions to support and guide us. During this conference call, I reflected on an email the City administration distributed on March 2, alerting Council and staff about forming an internal committee to monitor the then-unknown COVID-19 virus. The team was to gather information from the Hamilton County Public Health, the Ohio Department of Health, and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
On March 23, our Mayor penned a letter focusing on the extraordinary actions of the City administration, which included closing City Hall and assigning staff to identify essential activities and how to continue them through shelter in place and social distance orders.
I began to wonder what are the public agencies that work behind-the-scenes to serve our communities during these tough times.
Hamilton County Public Health is the primary agency responsible for protecting the public’s health in the event of a widespread public health emergency. They maintain an Emergency Plan Program that contains guidance and standard operating guides (SOGs) that include preparedness, mitigation, and response activities to plan and prepare for public health emergencies. They review what information to disseminate, update statistics, and clarify guidelines for use at the local level. This agency also manages the distribution and stockpiling of essential supplies.
The Hamilton County Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency’s (HCEMA) Emergency Operations Plan (EOP) addresses Hamilton County’s planned response to extraordinary emergencies associated with hazards such as natural disasters, technological crises, and terrorist attacks. It is the principal guide for mitigating emergencies and disasters. Of its many responsibilities, this agency supports public health, by connecting with communities to build capacity, coordinate with communities for the distribution of vital products such as protective gear, acquiring vital products, and manage requests from stakeholders for this equipment. HCEMA issues almost daily reports of potential disruptions and community needs.
The Hamilton County Board of Commissioners work with Hamilton County Public Health and HCEMA to coordinate efforts to manage the effects of the pandemic and the response for our residents. Of their various activities, they set up and notified the public of pop up testing sites for the COVID-19 virus, provided small business resources to enhance business sustainability, and coordinated the COVID-19 relief program. The Commissioners were there to clarify and update statistics, explain the impacts on our community, and potential remedies. They also shared guidance to promote the safety of our residents. Finally, they provided a consistent message needed at times like this.
Our City administration provided professional leadership for the execution of policies and the day-to-day management of the City of Montgomery. Their challenge during the shelter in place order was to provide essential services to our community while protecting the health of the employees and residents and preparation for some fiscal damage.
During the shelter in place order, the City of Montgomery was open for business. The City Hall staff was available by phone and email, thanks to today’s technology. Our outstanding public works, fire, and police personnel continue to serve the community while still taking appropriate measures to protect themselves and their loved ones.
We are not alone in disaster response; our neighboring communities shared best practices, guidance, and reaction to updated events, with an attempt at consistency throughout the region. The discussions typically included: what is your community doing now, and what are you allowing to open?
Thank you to our first responders, essential workers, and administration in these uncertain times.