The mandate for emergency management is “to protect lives and property from the effects of natural and technological disasters and enemy attack”, and begins with the President of the United States. At the federal level, emergency management is administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
In Minnesota the governor, working through the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (HSEM), is responsible for maintaining an effective emergency management program throughout the state. This includes monitoring county and municipal emergency management programs to ensure compliance with federal and state regulations and statutes.
At the city level, the emergency management director is responsible for developing disaster response capabilities and coordinating the development of an emergency response plan for the jurisdiction.
The city of Minnetonka is subject to major emergencies and/or disasters that may pose a significant threat to public health and/or safety, including:
- Natural causes (tornadoes, winter storms, hail)
- Technological disasters (hazardous materials spill)
- Civil emergencies (riots, protestors)
- National security events (terrorism)
To prepare for these varied threats, three federal- and state-certified emergency managers, all of whom are recognized locally as leaders in the field, form the city’s Emergency Management Department within the Minnetonka Fire Department. Together, they keep the city's emergency preparedness at a level virtually unmatched by other municipalities.
Emergency management includes the four phases below:
- Mitigation—actions taken to prevent disasters or lessen the harmful effects of unavoidable disaster.
- Preparedness—planning and training for potential disasters and emergencies.
- Response—all actions taken to lessen the impact of an actual or emergency.
- Recovery—actions taken to return communities and their citizens to their pre-disaster state, including measures to enhance future disaster preparedness.
Another responsibility of the Emergency Management Department is the maintenance of Minnetonka’s Emergency Response Plan. The city's plan is reviewed annually, on a four-year cycle. Reviews are conducted by the city, the county, the state, and the federal government to ensure the plan is a workable, living document that meets criteria laid out by these governments. Minnetonka's plan is so comprehensive that it is often used by other training agencies as an example of how to put a plan together.
About outdoor sirens
Outdoor sirens are designed for outdoor warning only. They sound once for about five minutes to alert people to get indoors and find out what the situation is, and then take appropriate action. Outdoor sirens have two tones: a steady wail is used to warn of significant weather (tornadoes, very severe thunderstorms) while the warble, or up-and-down tone is used for civil emergency situations (serious chemical leaks, nuclear attack, etc.). The “all clear” is only announced through media outlets when the situation which prompted the siren activation has passed.