Ready for anything

Published 5:58 am Monday, August 5, 2013

Amy Lammey is the emergency services coordinator and the safety director for the county. Lammey coordinates among all sectors of law and safety. Eric Johnson/

Amy Lammey is the emergency services coordinator and the safety director for the county. Lammey coordinates among all sectors of law and safety. Eric Johnson/

When disaster strikes, Amy Lammey will be ready — perhaps more than anyone. She spends her life preparing for the worst events. After all, it is her job.

Lammey has a fairly fresh role with Mower County as emergency management coordinator and safety director, in which she spends about 75 percent of her work time in the first job and 25 percent in the latter.

“It’s two jobs that make 40 hours a week,” Lammey said.

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As safety director, Lammey’s work is very localized. She ensures areas of the county are safe under the guidelines required by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, issues as simple as where people could fall and be injured.

As emergency management coordinator, Lammey is the cog in the wheel that ensures Mower County meets state and federal requirements to get disaster funding when needed. She trains constantly, preparing for tornadoes, floods, thunderstorms, pandemics and even cyber attacks. When emergency crews within the county aren’t enough to handle a situation, Lammey is on the horn for more help.

“We are the ones that bring all the resources together,” Lammey said. “If we’re flooding and we run out of sandbags, pumps, personnel, we are the ones to contact to get the additional resources.”

Because of state and federal requirements, Mower County Emergency Management had to create Lammey’s position. So emergency management department and human resources structured the position early last year and brought Lammey on board. And she shows enthusiasm.

“My favorite part about the job is working with all the different departments and people,” Lammey said.

Lammey, originally from Sacramento County, Calif., attended St. Cloud State and worked for Mower County Public Health for 13 years. Some of her skills transferred to her new position. Regardless, she spent the first year of her new career training for certifications.

“The first thing you do is you have to be certified by FEMA and Homeland Security and Emergency Management (HSEM),” Lammey said.

Now she has that certification, but the training progresses. On Thursday, Lammey spent all day in Owatonna meeting with more emergency management officials from the region.

Earlier this year, she was elected vice president of the joint powers board for HSEM’s Region 1, a 16-county area in southeastern Minnesota, said Mower County Emergency Management Director Wayne Madson. That role, he added, helps emergency management become parallel throughout those counties. If an emergency manager is absent, or a county is in need, other emergency managers can step in and know what to do.

Madson, Lammey’s superior in the Mower County office, is happy with more than just Lammey’s enthusiasm and extra help. He said Lammey has streamlined some operations and brought a newer perspective.

“To get these newer, younger minds in here is really such a benefit, not only to the county but to the state,” Madson said.

Lammey helped streamline severe weather coordination within her office and adjacent departments.

“Instead of our dispatcher having to make 15 different phone calls, it’s streamlined into our cell phones,” Madson said.

Lammey and dozens of area area emergency officials will put their skills to the test in mid-September, when they train for a large-scale weather disaster in Grand Meadow. The exercise will draw on services of rural fire departments from around the county, along with ambulances, law enforcement, volunteers and even the National Weather Service.

“We are hoping to have about 120 people involved, responders and actors,” Lammey said.

Lammey even hopes some bystanders watch the event to make it more realistic. Such a scenario will help individual departments and Lammey pinpoint where improvements can be made. As always, communication is the focus.

“If we have a break in communication, it’s going to be worse,” Lammey said. “Every exercise is about communication.”

Communication will improve greatly, as well, when Mower County hops onboard the 800 megahertz radio system, Lammey said. Mower is one of the last counties in Minnesota to make the switch. In the meantime, Lammey will keep training, learning the newest, best ways to coordinate for large-scale disasters. After many years, Madson understands the significance of such services.

“We all hope nothing ever happens,” Madson said, “but at times during an emergency situation, the public is going to look to the government to get rid of chaos, to bring organization to chaos.”

While many within the public will carry on with their lives as normal, thinking, ‘It can never happen to me,’ Lammey will always wonder about the worst. That’s inevitable.

“It’s a position where you are always kind of wondering what is going to happen,” Lammey said.