Sturgis Emergency Manager Hopes For Best, Preps For Worst

Jul 14, 2015

Motorcycles in a parking lot as a Black Hills thunderstorm looms overhead.
Credit Charles Michael Ray

The 75th Sturgis Rally could bring more than 750,000 people to South Dakota in the first part of August.
 
The flood of people can compound challenges in dealing with any major catastrophe that could occur.
 
So, officials with the Meade County Emergency Management in Sturgis are opening an operations center and keeping it staffed through the rally.

Typically, officials open an Emergency Operations Center or EOC after a major disaster.   An EOC can serve as a central location where emergency mangers can assign personnel and equipment to the areas in most need.   But in the case of the Sturgis Rally officials are opening an EOC before any disaster occurs.
 
“It’s having the personnel pre-staged in case something happens,” says Angella Sutton, the Meade County Emergency Management Director. She adds, “You have for example your planning individual your resource individual. So, they’re sitting there looking at a computer program that would have those resources at the tip of their fingers compared to something happening, trying to recall those personnel.  In this case everything is already ready."
 
Sutton says the Sturgis EOC is being staffed with county based Emergency Mangers from across the state who are volunteering their time.
 
Sutton says the traffic is one of the difficulties in dealing with any disaster during the Sturgis Rally.  The rally can bring near gridlock to local highways and roads. This makes it hard to get people out and emergency personnel in.  Sutton says part of the preparation includes two school busses that are outfitted as 12 bed ambulances.  These can help move a larger number of patients to the hospital if needed.
 
Sutton says her office is also using social media to get the word out with any disaster warnings or information.  Her office has a new account on twitter you can find here.