Isanti assistant chief assists with International Falls flood mitigation

Isanti Fire District 1st Assistant Chief Al Jankovich recently returned from a 4-day trip to International Falls to assist Koochiching Counties efforts to manage increasing flood waters.

Local officials and hydrologists in International Falls were seeing rapidly rising water levels along Rainy Lake and River, this coupled with the forecasted rain, quickly determined they would require emergency action to protect the counties assets.

Following a site visit and declared state of emergency from Gov. Mark Dayton to the county, the decision was made to reach out to some state wide resources to assist with the rising waters.

Jankovich stated he receives a lot of support from Isanti Fire Chief Randy Polzin and their joint operating board to help with situations like this.

Jankovich received the call for help at approximately 5 p.m. Wednesday evening and by 7 a.m. the following morning he was at a Koochiching County Emergency Management briefing.

Assistant Chief Jankovich stated that, “upon arrival, the county and city agencies were doing a great job prioritizing their efforts and protecting major county infrastructure. This is typically our initial focus when responding to a situation like this. The sand bagging operation they had implemented was also very effective. The county utilized a county-wide calling system, much like Isanti County’s Code Red system, to send out mass notifications to announce the need for volunteers at the different locations. The sand bagging operation generated semi loads of sand bags in effort to get ahead of 100 National Guard soldiers who would break into divisions and sand bag areas along the rising waters.

“They had people ranging in age from kids to grandparents chipping in, Boise Cascade paper mill sent workers to help, local elected officials, and even Senator Franken stopped by to thank everyone for their assistance and helped throw some bags. Their successes are definitely due to their joint efforts,” Jankovich added.

Jankovich’s duties while assisting Koochiching County were to oversee operations. The All Hazards Emergency Response team that he is a part of out of Bloomington, focuses on implementing a national incident management system, otherwise known as NIMS.

“The amount of detail that goes into a response like this can be mind boggling,” Jankovich said. “It is our mission to use the NIMS systems, and its procedures to formalize the incident. First responders in Isanti County are all familiar with the acronym and know it entails a lot of documentation. How I try to explain it is if we don’t document every volunteer, every pump, every tandem load of sand … was it there? If we don’t have documentation to show it was there, our authorities may have a hard time claiming reimbursement when everything is said and done. This could add up to some very large sums of money.”

Other large scale emergencies Jankovich has assisted with over the last few years with his team include the Pagami Creek Fire, Carlton County Floods and Hurricane Sandy.