Thursday, July 15, 2010 - 8:25am

Residents and Officials Work Through Crisis Scenario

What would happen if a tornado touched down in a neighborhood creating substantial damage? Would there be a neighborhood-wide system in place for people to help one another before emergency services arrived? In the event of a large scale incident when there is high demand for emergency services, communities might have to rely on themselves in the immediate aftermath of an emergency. A well prepared community is able to become its own best first responder.

As a follow up to last summer's heat emergency drill, residents of Allied Drive and first responders will once again create an opportunity to simulate an emergency situation. The previous drill revealed a need to establish a more effective notification system. Residents communicated the desire to build stronger relationships with response agencies and community organizations. Many felt they did not have a good understanding of their community's emergency plans.

The most recent event, a table top exercise simulating the aftermath of a tornado, took place yesterday afternoon, July 14th at the Boys and Girls Club in the Allied/Belmar neighborhood. Participants included representatives from the City of Madison Police Department, City of Madison Fire Department and Fitchburg Police and Fitchburg Fire Departments, Dane County Emergency Management and Human Services, the American Red Cross Badger Chapter, the Allied and Allied-Dunn's Marsh Neighborhood Associations, the Boys and Girls Club and Public Health Madison & Dane County.

Another key group of participants were neighborhood "Welcomers". Welcomers are residents in the Allied neighborhood who have taken the initiative to be leaders in their community. These leaders take extra time out of their day to become educated resources for their building residents and to facilitate a supportive and friendly environment. A Welcomer is responsible for introducing new residents to the community. They also engage in monthly trainings such as fire safety, emergencies, and conflict resolution. Welcomers are a special resource in emergencies because they are familiar with their neighbors, and they know their neighbors' general routines and special needs. Their role during emergencies is especially important when city and county responders are overwhelmed, and cannot get to everyone right away. They can also provide valuable information to first responders about who is safe, injured, missing or out of town.

The Allied Drive Welcome Program exemplifies "social capital" building. A neighborhood's social capital (including overall levels of trust, shared interest, solidarity, and cooperation) plays a key role in determining how well a community is able to respond to any event that disrupts everyday life.

One primary goal of this exercise was to create a common vision among Allied residents and area first responders as to how they will function during an actual emergency, not only as individuals and families but as an entire community.

During the 3-hour event, residents and responders actively engaged in an open dialogue, learning about the resources that each has offer in the event of a large scale emergency. In addressing the Welcomers following the exercise, Lori Wirth of Madison Fire Department stated, "What you are doing here is huge, it's valuable, and it's making a difference." These sentiments were echoed by Captain Martinez, "I've been in the Fire Department for 30 years and I've never seen anything like this before." A representative from the Red Cross went as far as to say, "I've been to disasters all over the country and I've never seen a neighborhood this organized." Welcomers expressed their appreciation for the information shared by first responders. One resident and Welcomer summed it up by saying, "When things happen, the more you know it helps you serve better. I've learned so much."

This Exercise was sponsored by the Allied Wellness Center, Public Health Madison and Dane County, and Dane County Emergency Management and supported through a generous grant from the Dane County Medical Society.


Public Health Madison & Dane County


  • Jeff Golden(608) 243-0302