FARMINGTON -- Someone forgot to tell Dave Petersen that in taking a job in this city as community development director, he was also assuming a leadership role in any potential community emergency.
He knows now.
Petersen was among a group of eight city officials from Farmington who attended a four-day training session in Maryland recently to become better equipped to play a leadership role in an emergency operation center. The training sessions are sponsored by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Besides Petersen, the group also included City Manager Dave Millheim, City Councilman Nelsen Michaelson, City Finance Director Keith Johnson, and Paul White, the city's emergency services coordinator.
"As the community development director in FEMA documents, I'm supposed to put on an emergency public safety hat that I don't wear," Petersen said. The training helped him feel a little more comfortable in wearing that emergency hat, which he said is not natural otherwise.
"If we do have an emergency, I'm willing to pitch in and help out where I can. I am not a policeman or fireman. It's like the police chief if he is asked to conduct the planning commission," Petersen said.
Part of the training included a mock drill that put Petersen directly in charge of finding housing for potential victims being evacuated from a train derailment.
Petersen wasn't the only official forced into a new role. Councilman Michaelson, an otherwise quiet and soft-spoken person, acted as mayor during the mock drill and dealt with the decisions that come with the position. He had to consider potential evacuations, among other issues.
"It taught me you have to trust the emergency professionally trained people know what they are doing and they can make decisions and you don't have to micromanage them," Michaelson said.
He said the training in the emergency operations center setting also forced him to make a lot of decisions on his feet.
Even a guy who works with budgets and numbers plays a role in an emergency, as Johnson found out.
Johnson said he would be in charge of any procurement during a disaster and keeping track of documentation in case FEMA were to declare the area an emergency area.
"It was good. It was quite an experience," Johnson said.
Millheim said much of the motivation for the training was the windstorm in Davis County in December of last year. He said from that disaster city officials compiled a punch list of about 45 issues to address to be better prepared and equipped for future emergencies. Taking advantage of FEMA training in operating an EOC was on that list.
He said city officials hope to send public works, fire and police officials to train in the future.