Officials from the City of Delaware Fire Department and several other government agencies toured the Delaware County Jail to better prepare for any emergency scenarios that may occur there.
Around two dozen firefighters, representatives from the city police department, county officials and the Delaware County Emergency Management Agency toured the jail Monday with Jail Director Shelley Pfan and Assistant Jail Director Jessica Jackson to gain a working knowledge of the inside of the jail in case of emergency.
City of Delaware Fire Chief John Donahue said it was a great opportunity for the fire department to learn where the entrances and exits are and what avenues they can use to travel in and out of the jail.
Donahue said the jail is a special challenge because not only would first responders need to get inside, but they’d also need to make sure that none of the prisoners at the jail escape.
“The jail is a unique situation,” Donahue said. “We’ve been working with the jail to update emergency plans. [This tour] gave us a chance to do a meet and greet in a non-emergency situation.”
Donahue said the fire department tries to tour as many businesses and buildings as possible so they know the layout if they need to go into the building in a low visibility situation.
Donahue said the fire department and county agencies did a tabletop emergency exercise in August where they simulated an emergency at the jail and identified their weaknesses and adjusted accordingly.
Major Jeff Balzer of the Delaware County Sheriff’s Office said the tabletop exercise paid off when the power at the jail went out for several hours in September. He said he was pleased that the jail still functioned smoothly because of the corrections officers’ training.
“It did my heart good to see how well the officers operated,” Balzer said. “Everybody did a great job.”
Balzer said the fire department is called to the jail several times a week for medical emergencies but said the tour was a good way for them to see areas they’ve never seen before.
“There are lots of challenges,” Balzer said. “Older buildings like this were built to code at the time, but those codes change. We do the best we can. … I’m interested in their feedback and areas of concern.”
Balzer said he really appreciated the other agencies coming out for the tour.
Sean Miller, the director of Delaware County EMA, said Tuesday that the tour dovetailed nicely with the tabletop exercise and will make any future response more efficient.
“The primary function of the tour was to build familiarity amongst responders with the facilities,” Miller said. “This knowledge will expedite response, should it ever be needed. This will also be the next step in the planning process as these exercises have helped to identify areas for improvement in existing plans and procedures.”
Donahue praised the spirit of cooperation between the county and city agencies.
“This is a great thing that we have in Delaware County,” Donahue said. “We are truly working together.”