Tornado Turns Eyes to Emergency Operations Plan

SILOAM SPRINGS, AR -- After an EF-4 tornado touched down in Central Arkansas, a Northwest Arkansas city is now reviewing its own Emergency Operations Plan.

"The incident that occurred in the Mayflower, Vilonia area just serves as a reminder that yes, we need to keep that up to date."

The City of Siloam Springs reviews its plan annually and all cities across Arkansas and across the country are required by Homeland Security to have emergency plans in place. When disaster strikes, Fire Chief Greg Neely knows crews start reevaluating their plans and work to improve response.

"It starts with something as simple as a phone list. Do you have a list of people to call and are those phone numbers correct? Standing up shelters after the emergency. Are those shelters still willing to be able to house people after the incident occurs?"

Amidst the cleanup and efforts to rebuild, Neely believes there are opportunities to learn.

"There's always lessons to learn on these types of incidents... I can almost tell you with certainty that there are some things that are going to challenge them. Communications is going to be a big challenge. What to do with all the volunteers that begin to self-deploy and congregate and want to help... and even finance. How are you going to pay for all this?"

Before severe weather touches down, Chief Neely has his team run through procedures with simulations and table-top discussions. He believes now is the time to take lessons learned from Sunday's tornado and better prepare Northwest Arkansas cities.

"How would you handle this? What would you do if this occurred in this corridor of your city?... It just heightens everyone's awareness that no one is immune from these weather events... It's this particular time of year that you really need to bring your A-game and be ready."

Neely also said crews on scene in Central Arkansas will share what worked and what did not work for them at different seminars and workshops around the state, in hopes of helping surrounding communities better prepare.

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