1/24/2009 3:24:00 PM Can O' Worms #8 Mike Carpenter's OPERATION PUBLIC SERVANT
Here's a local initiative from Citizen Mike Carpenter. I should have published it several months ago. Mike's original submission contained contact information for elected officials. However, some of the information was outdated, so I thought I'd update the information before posting this article. As it turns out, it ain't easy to find contact information for our local elected officials. But that's the subject of another article on this Website.
As many of you know, Mike Carpenter spends a lot of his personal time being a good citizen and attending public meetings for us. He asks questions, he offers suggestions, he gets involved. These are not necessarily activities that have endeared him to our public officials. A case in point was a proposal by Mike to implement a Reverse 911 interactive communication notification system in Shelbyville and Shelby County.
Despite the fact that Reverse 911 systems are used effectively to improve lines of communication for the general population in thousands of communities and businesses across the United States, our local officials repeatedly rebuffed Carpenter's pleas to consider adopting the system.
Consequently, Carpenter has introduced his Operation Public Servant (Plan B) as an interim alternative for local emergency communications. His letter follows:
OPERATION PUBLIC SERVANT
Thank you for the opportunity to explain OPERATION PUBLIC SERVANT (OPS).
OPS is not an operation as much as it is a simple suggestion that we utilize the invitation to contact city and county council members and ask for their assistance in times of emergency communication needs. We can have less government and less government mandates without sacrificing the needed government assistance by our public servants. We can increase emergency communications capabilities without grant money and expensive wireless gadgets by simply utilizing the resources and personnel already available to us. OPERATION PUBLIC SERVANT (PLAN B) was created thanks to members of the Shelbyville Common Council who rejected numerous Reverse 911 proposals.
Currently, as a last resort, citizens who cannot get an emergency message to a loved one while they are at work can call their local law enforcement department and request that an officer relay a message to a job site for them. However, if an officer is unavailable, citizens may have no remaining options. OPS is intended to provide additional options for these citizens.
The Mayor and members of the City and County Councils are paid public servants who offer their phone numbers to the public for the purpose of communications. So, OPS is a suggestion that citizens who have exhausted other options, could phone the Mayor or other elected public servants and request them to relay an emergency message in person to a job site instead of waiting for a law enforcement officer, or instead of taking a law enforcement officer off the street. OPS is workable for a variety of emergency situations. OPS does not require government mandates for businesses, nor does it require preparedness plans or other burdens for employers.
Phone numbers of elected officials could also be used for hotlines and emergency situations that require evacuations. During an on-going crisis, such as a fire at Knauf, citizens could phone an elected public servant and request that they go to the scene and verify that a family member has been accounted for then report back to the citizen. In this manner, the public servant's phone number could be used as a hotline. Likewise, public servants could also go door-to-door and assist homebound individuals during evacuations. Their personal involvement in emergency communications will save local governments money by avoiding expensive electronic systems and training.
Not unlike helpless passengers on a runaway train, our elected officials will be more willing to comply with citizen requests when informed that their refusal could expose the city or county to a liability lawsuit if their refusal directly results in the loss of life, limb or property damage. OPS is a short-term fix until a long-term solution for local emergency communications is developed and implemented.
Please share this information with your friends, relatives, neighbors and co-workers. To be prepared, clip the telephone contact information out of the newspaper the next time it is published and keep it close to your phone or fridge. By utilizing our resources and our elected officials, we will be better prepared for future emergencies. With the help of our public servants and the public whom they serve, we will make it so.