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Cook County Connections: ISD 166 Emergency Management Safety Class Presentation

Jun 09, 2023 08:55AM ● By Content Editor
Photos provided

From Cook County, MN - June 9, 2023

By: Todd Ford, Cook County MN Public Information Coordinator

On Wednesday, May 31, immediately after the 8:00 a.m. bell and principal’s announcements, students in Emma Spoon’s ISD 166 Sixth Grade Safety Class were treated to an insightful and informative Emergency Management presentation by Mike Keyport, Cook County Emergency Management Director and Ann Sullivan, Cook County District 4 Commissioner. The session provided an overview of the Emergency Management programs in Cook County and drilled down into the specifics of each topic.

As I was invited to cover the class for this article, I realized how long it had been since I had set foot in a classroom full of young students. I was impressed by a number of things: the attentive, inquisitive, and polite nature of the kids, the relaxed, yet well-structured classroom setup, and the technology. When I was their age, the only calculator in the classroom was an abacus. Now every student is equipped with a Chromebook laptop. We had no digital projectors for PowerPoint presentations. Instead, teachers used a backlit contraption that projected magnified transparent overlays upon a pull-down vinyl screen. But I digress.

Commissioner Sullivan is right at home in the classroom, as she served in the education field for 44 years, first as a teacher, then as school administrator. Mike Keyport is well-versed in all aspects of safety concerns, particularly those that are unique to our Northwoods rural community. As the great grandson of John Beargrease, Mike’s passion for all things outdoors is in his genes.

The presenters took turns engaging the class. Mike began by defining the role of Emergency Management, which is to protect lives, property, and our environment from natural and/or man-made disasters through preparation, mitigation, response, and recovery. His role is to maximize the protection and promotion of public safety, health and welfare during large scale emergencies or disasters.


He spoke on Preparedness, which includes plans or preparations made to save lives and to help response and rescue operations. He cited Emergency Operations Plans and Evacuation Plans as examples of preparedness. These are activities that take place before an emergency occurs.

Commissioner Sullivan followed with the Five Ws (who, what, when, where, and why) related to GO BAGS. A GO BAG is a disaster kit that ensures you and your family have everything you may need in an emergency. She related a story about years ago when the cabin she lived in was so close to the Pagami Creek Fire that she could see the flames while standing on her steps. That is when she packed her first GO BAG. Ann demonstrated a packed GO BAG that she keeps in her car. It includes: face masks (to filter smoke particulate), toilet paper, a mylar blanket (for warmth), a survival bandana (that tells you what to do in certain kinds of emergencies), a whistle (blow three times – the international signal of distress), a flare (for signaling in darkness), medication (including an EpiPen for allergic reactions), glass cleaner & tool kit, a hand-crank radio with a solar panel, a spot locator, and head-lamp. She also demonstrated additional items that her husband keeps in the GO BAG in his car. It includes: a first aid kit, a cold compress bag, a tourniquet, a sterile staple gun, and a printed contact list that specifies check-in locations. When one is panicking, it is easy to overlook many of these details. Hopefully you will never need a GO BAG, but in case of emergency, it is good to be prepared.

Mike reminded the class to include pet food and supplies if they plan on bringing their pet with them when evacuating. He then discussed Mitigation. This refers to preventing future emergencies or minimizing their effects. Hazard mitigation is defined as any sustained action to reduce or eliminate long-term risk to human life and property from hazards. Buying flood and fire insurance for your home is a mitigation activity. These activities take place before and after emergencies.

Keyport next spoke about Response… responding safely to an emergency. This includes actions taken to save lives and prevent further property damage in an emergency situation. Response is putting your preparedness plans into action, such as seeking shelter from a tornado or turning off gas valves in an earthquake. These actions take place during an emergency.

He continued with Recovery. This includes actions taken to return to normal or an even safer situation following an emergency. Recovery from some emergencies (like a storm that comes and goes) can be relatively quick and simple. Others, like the COVID-19 Pandemic, can take years to recover from. Recovery takes place after an emergency.

Mike walked the class through a variety of plans he is responsible for: Emergency Operation Plan, All Hazards Mitigation Plan, Evacuation Plan, Wildfire Protection Plan, Search and Rescue Plan, and Pandemic Flu Plan.

Ann interjected with the importance of keeping a fire extinguisher and fire blanket in your kitchen, which is the most common location where fires start.

Mike and Ann explained the mission of the Cook County Emergency Preparedness Committee, which is to promote, support, and enhance cooperation and emergency preparedness in Cook County. This is accomplished by providing leadership, education, training and exercise opportunities with partnering agencies and the public. The committee works together to mitigate against, prepare for, respond to, and recover from all hazard-related emergencies and disasters.

The two spoke further about Firewise, an educational program that provides a set of tools to help property owners prepare for wildfires in an effort to reduce future damage to their property. There is a Firewise Coordinator who assists Mike in implementing the program throughout the community.

They discussed the cooperative partnership between Public Health and Emergency Management. They are part of the Emergency Preparedness Committee, which also includes Ambulance and Fire crews, the hospital, Sheriff’s office, Forest Service, DNR (Department of Natural Resources), and schools. This group meets every other month during normal times. During the peak of COVID, they had to meet far more frequently. This helped to limit the number of deaths related to COVID, keep the grocery stores open and so on. Public Health and Emergency Management attend the Northeast Healthcare Preparedness Coalition, where they train, exercise, and explore regional resources and technologies together.

At the end of the presentation, GO BAGS were distributed to all of the students, with encouragement to pack them soon, referring to the list printed on the side of the bags as a reminder for important content.


County Connections is a column on timely topics and service information from your Cook County government. Cook County – Supporting Community Through Quality Public Service.

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