nddes insights September 2020

Burgum approves help for Oregon wildfire efforts through Emergency Management Assistance Compact

Gov. Doug Burgum this month approved an Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC) request from the state of Oregon for a firefighter task force to support the response to suppressing the deadly wildfires there. EMAC is an emergency response mechanism that allows states to send personnel, equipment and commodities to assist with response and recovery efforts in other states.

North Dakota sent a task force comprised of 16 firefighters and one task force leader from the Minot, Williston, Grand Forks and Fargo fire departments. The team assembled Sept. 14 in Bismarck for coordinating instructions and to be issued additional equipment through the North Dakota Forest Service. They convoyed to Oregon with four firetrucks and two support vehicles, including a command trailer. The team is led by Jason Catrambone of the Williston Fire Department.

“North Dakota is ready to help protect those threatened by the devastating forces of the Oregon wildfires, just as others have come to our state’s assistance during past floods and other emergencies,” Burgum said. “We’re grateful that these firefighters, who safeguard our citizens with their courageous service, have volunteered to assist others in need beyond our borders. We pray for the safety of those in harm’s way and extend our deepest condolences to those who have lost loved ones to these wildfires.”

The firefighters, who are trained in urban firefighting, were assigned to a base camp in Oregon where they operated their equipment to protect structures from advancing wildfires. At the time of the team's departure, there were 38 active wildfires threatening several communities in western Oregon.

North Dakota’s volunteer task force was assembled after sourcing and coordination through the North Dakota Department of Emergency Services (DES). North Dakota has a long history of providing EMAC support to other states. Since 2005, DES staff have supported response agencies through EMAC during disaster events in six locations, including: Louisiana (2005 hurricane), Mississippi (2011 flooding), Puerto Rico (2017 hurricane), Florida (2017 hurricane), Hawaii (2018 volcano) and, most recently, in Oklahoma (2019 flooding/tornadoes).

“We extend our appreciation to the local agencies that were able to make this response possible. This volunteer effort from minot, Grand Forks, Fargo and Williston will provide much-needed support to the wildfire response effort in Oregon,” said Cody Schulz, North Dakota Homeland Security director. “North Dakota, too, has been the recipient of EMAC support during disaster events, such as floods. We are happy to reciprocate and help our neighbors when given the opportunity.”

The team has participated in the Oregon wildfire response for two weeks and will be back in North Dakota on Oct. 1.

nddes employees recognized for state, emergency management contributions

The staff from State Radio, top left, and Robert "Joe" Lies, bottom, received Certificates of Achievement from the North Dakota Emergency Management Association. Top right, Kathleen Donahue received the Governor's Harvest Award for Excellence in Quality.

Gov. Doug Burgum presented the 2020 Governor’s Awards for Excellence in Public Service on Sept. 24, recognizing team members for their dedicated work in state government and making a positive difference in the lives of North Dakota citizens during an extremely challenging year.

Kathleen Donahue, deputy planning section chief for NDDES, was presented the Harvest Award for Excellence in Quality during the event.

Kathleen was recognized for her commitment to quality in preparing disaster declaration requests, reviewing hazard mitigation plans and other efforts, helping make North Dakota’s people and communities whole after disasters and assisting in making them stronger and more resilient to future events.

Additionally, North Dakota’s COVID-19 Response Team received the Roaming Bison Award for using a whole-of-government approach to respond to a rapidly and constantly changing environment and unprecedented challenges associated with the pandemic.

Earlier in the month, NDDES staff received Certificates of Achievement Sept. 1 from the North Dakota Emergency Management Association during the group's annual conference, which this year was held in a virtual format.

Robert "Joe" Lies, regional emergency response coordinator for Northeast North Dakota, was recognized for his support to the counties with which he collaborates. The person who nominated Joe for the award said, "Joe goes above and beyond for his region as a part of his job assignment as regional coordinator every year. During this pandemic (COVID-19), however, he has gone far above, making sure we all have the information and resources to get through this. He has set up weekly meetings to keep us all — no matter how many years on the job — learning, discussing and, at times, instructing. Throughout this year, he has been instrumental with many of us completing THIRA (Threat and Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment) also. The northeast region is fortunate to have Joe Lies. Thank you, Joe."

The staff from State Radio also received a Certificate of Achievement for their steadfast support to their emergency response partners and service to communities across North Dakota.


The N.D. Department of Commerce will be hosting the 2020 Main Street ND Summit, a virtual event slated for Oct. 6-7. With a focus on Building Resilient Communities, the conference will be presented in partnership with the Economic Development Association of North Dakota, the North Dakota Council on the Arts and Prairie Family Business Association. Participants will have the opportunity to bring innovative ideas from world-class keynote and breakout session speakers back to their communities to effect change at the local level.

“Since the COVID-19 pandemic first impacted North Dakota, resiliency and economic development have emerged as top priorities for our state,” said Shawn Kessel, interim director of Commerce and member of the Technical Advisory Committee that directs the activities of the State Hazard Mitigation Team. “Now, more than ever before, we need to bring together North Dakota’s community leaders of all types to discuss resiliency.”

For the 2020 Summit, North Dakota Homeland Security Director Cody Schulz will be providing an overview of resilience opportunities available through Hazard Mitigation Assistance. Director Schulz and Justin Messner, NDDES Recovery Section chief, will each facilitate a session on resilience during the summit. The first session focuses on resilience and how the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) are addressing resilience at the individual, local, state and tribal levels during times of COVID-19. The second session, Planning for Resiliency/Plan Integration in the State of North Dakota, will outline opportunities to integrate local and regional plans when updating communities’ Multi-Hazard Mitigation Plans and the EDA Comprehensive Development Strategy plans.

For the past two years, SHMT partners have supported the Main Street ND Summit. SHMT partners who supported the 2019 summit included North Dakota’s: State Library, Forest Service, Department of Health, Job Service, North Dakota State University Extension, Highway Patrol, Game and Fish Department, Housing Finance Agency, Workforce Safety and Insurance, Department of Transportation, Department of Human Services, Public Finance Authority, Information Technology Department, Department of Parks and Recreation, State Water Commission, Department of Agriculture, Office of Management and Budget and NDDES. Last year, FEMA also supported the 2019 Main Street ND Summit which was attended by more than 1,400 community leaders, students and stakeholders.

Annual Report Highlights Mitigation Accomplishments

The Progress Report January 2019 — July 2020: North Dakota’s Collaborative Approach to Hazard Mitigation recognizes the achievement of the State Hazard Mitigation Team (SHMT) and how its Whole Community approach has elevated North Dakota as a national leader in mitigation. The successful and integrated planning efforts featured in this report have required the support of 42 state agencies and divisions, 15 federal agencies, 21 non-governmental and private organizations, and eight local agencies, who represent the four quadrants of our state.

The report highlights the collaboration taking place with Canadian and North Dakota stakeholders regarding management of the Mouse/Souris River dam operation; and how the Governor’s Main Street Initiative emphasizes community resilience. The report features Transportation Connection, an all-inclusive long-range transportation plan supported by emergency managers and SHMT members.

Read the report here: Progress Report January 2019 — July 2020: North Dakota’s Collaborative Approach to Hazard Mitigation

Burgum issues updated risk level guidance for counties, adjusts strategy for long-term care

In response to the latest case data around the state, Gov. Burgum on Sept. 23 issued updated risk level guidance for North Dakota counties. Three counties saw a decrease in their risk level, while 12 have been moved to a higher level with accompanying recommendations to slow the spread of COVID-19.

The North Dakota Department of Health (NDDoH) is also adjusting testing and contact tracing strategies to address a recent uptick in cases among long-term care facilities.

"Our state’s Vulnerable Population Protection Plan has been identified as one of the best strategies for protecting vulnerable individuals in congregate settings, and this represents an increased emphasis on protecting residents and staff in these facilities," Burgum said.

Updates to the strategy include:

  • Testing of long-term care residents and staff has been prioritized over all other testing, and every effort will be made to return results from long-term care tests within 24 hours of testing to allow for immediate isolation and cohorting, or grouping together, of positive residents and staff and quarantine of close contacts.
  • Contact tracing and follow-up with long-term care residents and health care workers also has been prioritized through the NDDoH.
  • The NDDoH will begin to implement a plan to use emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and others to conduct test swabbing and is prioritizing approximately 200 nurses from the NDDoH’s Department Operations Center to provide staff coverage as needed in long-term care facilities and other congregate settings.

The state is continuing to look at innovations in long-term care settings relating to screening, testing, disinfection and telehealth to continue to protect some of our most vulnerable citizens.

Updated risk level guidance for North Dakota counties as of Sept. 23.