GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) - All of Wisconsin's 72 counties have emergency plans to respond to everything from chemical leaks to weather emergencies, but an investigation by Gannett Wisconsin Media found that some counties make it harder for residents to see their plans than others.
The Green Bay Press-Gazette reported Sunday that some counties also charge fees for their plans, which are public documents, while others do not. For example, Columbia County estimated it would charge more than $647 for all of the documents requested. By contrast, Marinette and Kewaunee counties charged $10 for their plans, which they provided on compact disc.
Reporters with Gannett Wisconsin Media requested emergency preparedness plans from county officials across the state in late January. The goal was to see if these plans were available to the people they are designed to protect.
The plans often contain information such as evacuation routes or information about warning systems. Some counties took weeks to provide the plans, while others had theirs available immediately online.
Here are some of the findings:
- Outagamie County promptly provided a link to an online version of its plan the day it received the request.
- Brown and La Crosse counties provided their plans the day after the request was made.
- Oconto County was unable to provide its report after six weeks.
- Portage County quickly provided a link to an online plan, and neighboring Wood County sent the basic portion of its plan within days, then sent the rest four weeks later.
Overall, the documents are typically hundreds of pages and consist of a basic plan plus additions on specific topics, such as radiation issues or public relations duties.
While some emergency management officials were enthused by the interest in the plans, others were concerned that some of the information could pose a problem if someone has ulterior motives.
"If you can pick up a written document about how a community would respond to an emergency and you could pick up some specifics, and you're on the dark side, you could conceivably be a threat to that community," Calumet County Emergency Management Director Matthew Marmor said.
But he also welcomed the interest, saying local residents are more likely to respond in a crisis if they know what is in the plan.