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nddes insights May 2020

Burgum requests presidential major disaster declaration for damage caused by spring flooding

Gov. Doug Burgum today requested a presidential major disaster declaration for widespread spring flooding estimated to have caused more than $40 million in damage to roads and other public infrastructure in North Dakota. The request follows an executive order Burgum issued April 24 declaring a statewide flood emergency.

In a letter May 22 directed to President Donald Trump through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Burgum requested that the President declare a major disaster for the period of March 2 to April 25, when the Red River dropped below major flood stage in Pembina. The request includes 21 counties: Barnes, Cass, Dickey, Emmons, Foster, Grand Forks, Kidder, LaMoure, Logan, McIntosh, Nelson, Pembina, Ransom, Richland, Sargent, Sheridan, Steele, Stutsman, Traill, Walsh and Wells.

“River and overland flooding this spring caused significant damage to roads, bridges and culverts in North Dakota counties that were already heavily burdened by recovery costs from significant spring and fall flooding last year,” Burgum said. “We appreciate the Trump administration considering our request and are grateful for everyone who worked with our Department of Emergency Services to compile data and make the case for federal assistance to help local jurisdictions recover.”

Photo caption: The Sorlie Bridge was temporarily closed in Grand Forks in early April due to flooding on Business US Highway 2 (DeMers Ave.) near the bridge. 

mitigation matters: NDDOT Launches Transportation Connection, NDDES Assists with Long Range Transportation Plan

The North Dakota Department of Transportation (NDDOT) is launching Transportation Connection, a Long Range Transportation Plan that will look out more than 20 years into the future and help identify plausible scenarios for transportation in the state.

Mitigation teams throughout the state, including members from the N.D. Department of Emergency Services (NDDES), are placing more emphasis on analysis of transportation systems as an integral component to understanding the impacts of hazards.

“Transportation Connection is our opportunity to make transportation easy, safe and accessible for everyone in the years to come. North Dakotans’ voices and ideas are essential to its success. We want to hear from them directly,” said Bill Panos, NDDOT Director.

The NDDOT will use online engagement opportunities, surveys, videos, social media and direct conversations to collect information to help shape the future of transportation in North Dakota. Due to the rapidly changing nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, the NDDOT will slowly introduce in-person outreach as appropriate.

“We encourage our local and tribal emergency management and planning groups to support this project by providing feedback and participating in meetings,” said Justin Messner, NDDES Disaster Recovery Chief.

The tentative project timeline will be as follows:

  • Spring – Stakeholder coordination and planning
  • Summer – Public, tribal and stakeholder online meetings and surveys
  • Fall – Needs assessment, plan preparation and scenario planning
  • Winter – Plan development and implementation

New employees fill state radio vacancies

State Radio’s staff now is flush with emergency dispatchers after four new employees this month completed their 2-week training through the State Radio Academy. Upon completing the curriculum, the newest team members have begun hands-on instruction with dispatch supervisors in the Communications Center.

Once the new dispatchers are fully trained, State Radio will have a full staff with a complement of 4-7 dispatchers per work shift crew.

“When I first started at State Radio in July 2019, we were short-staffed by about three or four dispatchers, and we had others who were planning to leave for different jobs. We were so short-staffed (our dispatchers) couldn’t even take vacation time,” said Dan Donlin, State Radio director. “My first priority was to fill the vacancies because I know how being short-staffed can cause stress among staff members while trying to cover shifts and not being able to take time off.”

Donlin said it takes about 2-3 months to announce job vacancies and conduct interviews and background checks to bring a dispatcher onto the team. State Radio has gone through the hiring process 3 times over the past year to become fully staffed.

According to the Journal of Emergency Dispatch, 911 communication centers nationally struggle with turnover rates. The national average for emergency dispatchers is between 17-19 percent.

Photo caption: Juana Perius, assistant shift supervisor, assists newly hired dispatcher Quentin Schumacher as he learns dispatching fundamentals in State Radio's Communications Center.

North Dakota gets new PPE disinfection system as recovered COVID-19 cases surpass active cases

Gov. Doug Burgum highlighted a new capability May 8 that will help North Dakota meet demand for personal protective equipment (PPE) during the coronavirus pandemic, as the state’s number of recovered COVID-19 cases surpassed the number of active cases.

The North Dakota Department of Health (NDDoH) began operation May 11 of a Battelle Critical Care Decontamination System for PPE. The mobile decontamination system is self-contained and uses vapor-phase hydrogen peroxide to decontaminate N95 respirator masks.

“Having an ample supply of PPE was one of our eight criteria for moving ahead with the ND Smart Restart, and the Battelle system will further improve our PPE capacity while also better preparing us for a potential second surge in COVID-19 cases,” Burgum said. “We’re grateful to our federal, state, local and private partners for their continued collaboration to save lives and livelihoods in North Dakota.”

North Dakota has one of 60 Battelle systems distributed nationwide. The state requested the Battelle system on April 15 from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), after the system received emergency use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Columbus, Ohio-based Battelle is supplying staff to operate the system in NDDoH-leased warehouse space in Bismarck.

flags flown at half-staff for victims of COronavirus pandemic

Gov. Doug Burgum directed government agencies to fly the United States and North Dakota flags at half-staff May 22-24, and encouraged North Dakotans to do the same at their homes and businesses, as a mark of solemn respect for the victims of the coronavirus pandemic.

The governor’s directive was in accordance with a proclamation issued by President Donald Trump.

“Kathryn and I extend our deepest condolences to every North Dakota family and community grieving the loss of a loved one to this global pandemic,” Burgum said. “We remember and honor those we have lost to COVID-19, and we reaffirm our commitment to a Smart Restart that protects the lives and livelihoods of all North Dakotans while emphasizing personal responsibility and caring for our fellow citizens.”

As of May 21, the North Dakota Department of Health reported 51 individuals had died while infected with COVID-19, including 38 who died from the disease, six whose death certificate listed something other than COVID-19 as the official cause of death, and seven cases in which the official death record was pending. Nationwide, nearly 100,000 have died, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.