Wisconsin Emergency Management continues to support local agencies during pandemic

Published: Mar. 23, 2021 at 4:23 PM CDT
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - It’s an agency we haven’t heard much from this year, but it’s one that is playing a lead role in the fight against COVID-19 in Wisconsin.

“Primarily what we focus on is supporting the local responders,” said Greg Engel, Director of Planning and Preparedness with Wisconsin Emergency Management.

Wisconsin Emergency Management has been at the forefront of the pandemic since the beginning when Governor Tony Evers ordered a ‘Level 1 Activation’ of the State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC). It’s the highest level of response.

“Probably the last time we had a ‘Level 1 Activation’ would have been 2008 for flooding. So it’s been over 10 years and this was certainly the largest “Level 1 Activation’ we’ve ever had, and certainly the longest role in level 1 activation as well,” said Engel.

There are five levels in Wisconsin when it comes to emergency response. One is the highest, meaning all hands on deck and 24-hour support.

“With COVID it really was a whole government response. We had every state agency engaged early on,” said Engel. “In the case of COVID, there’s the health care personnel, the frontline emergency responders, they’re responding to this all every day and we’re providing training, provide resources to help support them.”

Engel said over the past year, WEM has helped secure and distribute personal protective equipment (PPE), even when it was hard to find.

“We’ve probably provided tens-of-millions of gloves and masks and N-95 respirators and gowns over the past year and we’re still doing it,” said Engel.

Engel said gloves are still hard to get, but they are making it work.

“We need a lot of gloves for vaccine administration,” said Engel.

The state agency also took on a new role during the pandemic. With so many covid-19 related deaths and lives lost, WEM offered mortuary resources.

“That put an impact on coroners and medical examiners and funeral services, in terms of having the capacity to make sure that we can handle all that, as those fatalities grew,” said Engel. “So we have a task force and work closely with the funeral director community and medical examiners to make sure that they have the resources they need to be able to handle that and manage that in an appropriate way, in a safe way.”

Although the agency took more of a behind-the-scenes kind of role during the pandemic, they are still supporting frontline workers and agencies throughout the state.

“That’s how we gladly work because what our job is, is to support others who are doing their jobs,” said Engel. “We are prepared to continue to meet whatever the need is.”

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