Collaboration continues to be a countywide focus when it comes to emergency preparations, leading to one recent opportunity for a multi-agency resource center (MARC) training.

Sponsored in conjunction by the Central Kansas Community Foundation and American Red Cross, and held in Hesston, the training brought together representatives from a wide range of organizations and various disciplines (i.e. counseling, education, housing, health, etc.) — with Harvey County Emergency Management Director Gary Denny noting nearly 40 different entities were represented.

"We need to make sure all these agency representatives really know each other," said Harvey County Health Department Director Lynnette Redington.

Knowing each other is key, as is knowing the concept of a MARC, as Denny pointed out. Having that knowledge prior to an incident will help facilitate the establishment of a MARC, he said, and aid in the process of setting up such a center.

Part of the training was also about identifying just what type of situations a MARC could be utilized in, and while that list is vast, the resources that can be offered by the county organizations is equally long.

"There's several scenarios where a MARC could be a benefit, and it's kind of an endless deal to try to identify what you want to set up a MARC for. When you're overwhelmed, when the community becomes overwhelmed, it might be a good time to start thinking about a MARC," Denny said. "It's kind of one of those deals that if you're dealt a catastrophe, we don't want people to go all over the county trying to find the resources that they need, so we bring those resources to one location."

"We have a great number of resources...and being able to have those resources come together in one location, number one, helps our residents in the utmost," Redington said.

In terms of establishing a MARC, Denny noted it is important to know the first point of contact in establishing the center, which he said will typically be the lead volunteer organizations of the community like the United Way or Salvation Army.

Some of those Redington knows very well through collaboration with the Harvey County Resource Council. That group had a strong presence at the MARC training, but Redington said it was also critical to have contact with the numerous other organizations if simply to get out-of-office contact information — a resource she and others are working to put together — to better prepare for the establishment of a MARC.

Just what the situation will call for can vary, which is part of why the MARC training sought to include as many organizations as possible. Both Redington and Denny admitted there are instances that may call for services ranging from those offered by United Way to New Hope Shelter to the St. Matthew's Episcopal Church payee program. No matter the situation, it is clear to both that having a united front going into an emergency will greatly benefit in the recovery process.

"So much emphasis is put on the response — the boots on the ground, the fire trucks, the police cars, the ambulances, the catastrophe itself — but after that response is done, how do we improve and enhance that recovery that a community or a city or a region has dealt with," Denny said, "and the MARC concept is just one of those tools in the tool box we'll be able to use in the future to enhance a community's recovery."

"It's just bringing that awareness and we're bringing the connectedness between all of us; something's going to happen, whether it be the active killer or a natural disaster, we just don't know. When it does, we know we're going to be more prepared," Redington said. "We've been a great collaborative community; this is just going to step up our game."