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Siren test Wednesday*

September 2 2011

The cities of Burlington, West Burlington, Yarmouth and Middletown will test their outdoor warning sirens at 6 p.m. today.
The sirens will activate for two minutes, be silent for five minutes then be reactivated before being shut down.
There also will be a concurrent test of the Mediacom cable emergency warning system.
If severe weather is threatening, the test will be cancelled.
For questions, call the Emergency Management office at (319) 753-8206.

Local emergency panel brought back to life

October 12 2012

Chairwoman: 'My goal is to make our community a safer place to live and work.'

WEST BURLINGTON - For the first time in 13 years, the Des Moines County Local Emergency Planning Committee met Thursday morning.
Now that the organization has been brought back to life, it can apply for state grants, such as the Hazardous Materials Emergency Preparedness grant.
"My goal is to make our community a safer place to live and work, and to be prepared for local emergencies," said Gina Hardin, who was appointed chairwoman during the meeting.
Not to be confused with the Des Moines County Emergency Management Agency, of which Hardin is coordinator, the committee's goals are to put an emergency plan in place to address chemical accidents; coordinate local and state personnel during emergencies; and keep the public informed about the state of hazardous chemicals in the county.

Hardin invited a mix of public officials and private business owners who use hazardous chemicals, and the meeting at Great River Medical Center was attended by representatives from the Burlington, West Burlington, Mediapolis and Danville fire departments; the Des Moines County Sheriff's office; American Ordnance; Big River Resources; U.S. Gypsum; Hawkeye Pedershaab Concrete in Mediapolis; the Des Moines County Chapter of the American Red Cross; The Hawk Eye; Des Moines County Public Health; Alliant Energy; Champion Spark Plug Co.; Burlington Municipal Waterworks; the West Burlington Public Works Department; River Valley Cooperative in Sperry; and the Salvation Army.
Hardin noted 90 to 95 percent of the resources needed for an emergency come from the private sector.
"This really needs to be a communitywide effort," she said. "You can do more pre-planning if you know what kind of chemicals are out there. You have a right to know what's in the community."
Burlington Fire Department Battalion Chief Ken Morris was appointed vice chairman, and Des Moines County Public Health director Barb Baker was selected secretary/treasurer.
Unlike the Des Moines County Emergency Management Agency, the committee is not a response agency and does not manage county agencies. But many of the duties are similar.
"There is a lot of overlap," Hardin said.
After nominating officials, the committee decided to give the officers one-year terms and will discuss dividing those positions between private and public officials and extending the terms in future years.
Noble Boyd, who sat on the previous emergency planning committee, said dividing the roles between public officials and private business owners who deal with hazardous chemicals is vital to maintaining interest and sharing knowledge for potential emergency situations.
"I was on (the emergency committee) before, and I watched it die," he said. "People quit coming to the meetings. If you put all public sector people in there, then the private sector isn't interested."
Boyd helped organize a number of exercises about possible chemical disasters when he was part of the original committee and was excited to get started again Wednesday morning.
"We had three live exercises, and our goal was to identity what the risks were and do some sort of simulation for the police and the fire departments," he said.
Though the committee is required to meet only twice a year, Morris suggested meeting at least quarterly, and the next meeting tentatively is set for January. He also stressed the need for transparency when it comes to divulging how much of a hazardous chemical a business works with, since a chemical disaster easily could spread over Burlington and West Burlington.
"We don't do things in a vacuum. When things happen, it affects more than the company," Morris said. "The more we work together, the better off we're going to be."

Good day to Call

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The weather cooperated with auctioneer Paul Smith as he called an estate sale outdoors Saturday at 1817 Highland Ave. in Burlington. The high of 38 degrees brought out a good crowd. The house for $15,750.

February 3 1997

In the holiday mood*

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Dan Smith, Burlington, puts up Christmas decorations Friday afternoon in his yard at 824 Parkway Drive, Smith and his wife, Donna, were taking advantage of Friday's sunny weather to get some of outdoor holiday decorations up. Smith, who puts up 3,000 to 3,500 lights, estimates it takes the couple 40 hours to complete the job. The lights will be from Thanksgiving to New Year.

November 16 1998

Treasure hunters*

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Janet Ulrich of West Burlington hunt for deals Saturday at a sidewalk sale outside the Dollie Hamler Antique Store, 511 Jefferson St., Burlington.
Danny Smith
Auctions by Smith

May 21 2006

Day of the Child Brings Resources to Parents*

March 24 2014

Help and fun in one stop

Annual Day of the Child event brings a variety of resources to area parents.

West Burlington-Westland Mall became a one-stop shop for parenting Sunday.
While researching various resources would typically require parents to crisscross the community, the 26th annual Day of the Child provided Burlington-area parents a chance to see what is available by bringing a variety of programs under one roof.
Throughout the day, children were exposed to arts and crafts activities, free books and toothbrushes, and new games, while parents were able to discover different resources and programs in the area, as wall as sign up for insurance through the Affordable Heath Care Act.
Tamee DeCouresey, the event's founder and program assistant for the Community Action Family Child Care Program, said the idea of bringing resources together was born as she tried to find services for her daughter.
"I started Day of the Child when I was a child-care provider doing work at home," she said. "I was having trouble finding resources, so I thought man there's got to be a better way to find and access services than by calling around on the phone."
Parents, such as Alyssa Crockett, said they were taking full advantage of the event.
"Just finding out about sources in the community and around town to nice, because its not always easy to find something just driving around or even asking," said the Burlington mother of three. "It's nice to have everything in one place." Crockett said the event offered her children important hands-on lessons.
"I like seeing all the emergency resources and letting the kids be aware of what the equipment looks like and what the different departments are," she said. DeCouresey said the event is created for parents and children to learn together.
"It's just awesome to see parents and kids coming out and playing together and being together in a friendly environment," she added.
Groups attending the annual Day of the Child varied from agencies providing for the health and safety of prenatal mothers to organizations offering help with drug and substance abuse issues.
Great River Medical Center Educator Sherry Blanchard said each year her group has tried to educate parents on healthy lifestyle choices for their children.
"We're here to educate parents about childhood obesity and some of the solutions," she said. "Parents find out how much sugar and fat are in some food and they're usually pretty surprised."
Other organizations, such as the Girl Scouts, also attended to let the community know what they do.
"We're out here pretty much to interact with the community," said Jennifer Lepore, regional membership manager of the Girl Scouts.
According to DeCouresey, about 30 organizations participate in Day of the Child each year and some help by donating items to hand out.
"The Kiwanis this year raised money so they could buy books that could be handed out to children," DeCouresey said. "Everything here is free." Day of the Child is held each year at the Westland Mall in March or April.
Click the Pictures to make to biggerJaxson Huston, 3, of Burlington is helped by Sherry Blanchard, an Great River Health Systems educator, while he plays a game Sunday during the Day of  the Child event at Westland Mall in West Burlington. Blanchard was encouraging children to stay active and warning them about unhealthy food.

Sofia Weyer, 8 , of Burlington makes a "Potion" at a Community Action booth Sunday during the Day of the Child event at Westland Mall.

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Run for Fun*

April 12 2014

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Pictures by Ryan Smith
Des Moines County (CERT)
Great River Health Systems - Beaster Bunny 5k

Pie-eating contest brings sticky smiles to Fourth*

July 4 2014

West Burlington Fourth of July celebration sees surge of people as result of flood.

WEST BURLINGTON — For the second year in a row, 10-year-old Ty Carr from Danville brought his A-game to the pie-eating contest at the West Burlington Fourth of July Celebration. With friends and relatives cheering him on, Carr defended his title in the 8- to 12-year-old age group. He " finished his 20-ounce cherry pie in about " five minutes. As 12 contestants vied for the title in his age group, his mother, Eva Carr, could be heard offering advice to her son.
“Just swallow it, don’t chew it,” she screamed, a large smile creasing her face. “You got it, Ty, just keep going.” Afterward, with cherry " filling covering most of his face, Ty Carr said the pie-eating contest was something he just has fun doing, but only once a year.

“It was actually easier this year,” he said of defending his title. “Cherry pie is easier to swallow because the cherries are a lot smaller than the apples in the pies last year.”
Carr said he definitely will be back to defend his title next year.
“I’m not going to train,” he said. “I didn’t train this year. I just showed up and did my best. ... And this year’s pie really tasted good.”
The pie-eating contest, in its second year at the celebration, again drew a large amount of interest from people of all ages.

In addition to the contest, throngs of children and adults crowded Broadway Street to watch two parades, a talent show, sing karaoke, smash cars, sample various delights from dozens of food booths, listen to a wide range of music and view a spectacular fireworks display that ended the day’s festivities.
Prior to the fireworks extravaganza, the musical groups Revision, a high-energy party band, and the Blooze Brothers, a 12-piece show band that covers a wide range of musical styles, entertained the crowd.
Rod Crowner, a West Burlington City Council member and one of the celebration’s founding members, was ecstatic.
“It is definitely going to be big,” he said of this year’s celebration. “Probably the biggest crowd ever. With Fort Madison canceling its !reworks show and the fact most people who normally are on the river for the Fourth of July can’t be this year because of the "flooding, it’s going to be big.”
Crowner and West Burlington Police Chief Frank Newberry estimated the crowds to be anywhere from 3,000 to 5,000 people. However, both agreed it could be more because it is impossible to gauge just how many people attended the all-day festivities because tickets are not sold.
“I know it’s grown into a monster,” Crowner said of the celebration. “It just has a great, small-town, family atmosphere. People can come and, except for the food and drinks they buy, everything is free: the music, entertainment and fireworks.”
The celebration began with the 6:30 a.m. pancake breakfast that drew almost 2,000 people and ended with the 10 p.m. fireworks display, organizers said.
Crowner said another reason the celebration continues to grow is people in the area plan their Fourth of July celebrations around it.

“We are discovering that people who used to live in the area, but have moved away, are coming back for the Fourth of July,” he said. “They are making it part of their summer vacation plans.”
While the largest portion of the crowd began arriving late in the afternoon to grab the best seats for the fireworks display, Crowner said it also was the largest
daytime crowd he had seen. He said everything seemed to be working beautifully, especially the weather.
However, the pie-eating contest drew the largest and most vocal crowd of the afternoon.
The contest, divided into three age groups — 8 to 12, 13 to 17 and 18 and older — required all contestants to consume the pies made without using utensils while sitting on their hands.
Ty Carr was the only person who tried to defend his title. Winners in the other two categories, Ryley Turner, 16, and Chase Phelps, 26, both of Burlington, won their respective age groups. It was the first time they had entered eating contests.
“I wasn’t even going to get into it,” Phelps said. “I was kind of forced into it. It was pretty tough, but I think I may have to come back next year and defend
my title.”
Each winner received a trophy and $25 gift certificate. Newberry said the celebration was going smoothly, with no major problems reported during the day’s activities.
“Except for the parking, which is always a problem, we’ve not had any issues at all,” he said. “Everyone just seems to be enjoying each other’s company. It’s just the type of event we want here in West Burlington. It makes you proud to be a part of a small town.”

With the remains of a cherry pie on his face, 10-year-old Ty Carr of West Burlington defended his title in the pie-eating contest 8- to 12-year-old age group Friday at the West Burlington Fourth of July Celebration.

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Eric Hanks of Burlington holds the American fag while walking
in the West Burlington Fourth of July parade Friday in West

Severe Weather Spotter Course

February 24 2015

Aldo Leopold Middle School 3075 Sunnyside Burlington, Ia

by Ryan Smith

Burlington photographer accused of sexually abusing teenage customers

May 6 2015

The owner of a photography studio in Burlington, Iowa has been accused of sexually abusing multiple teenage customers.

Teenage girls who had been photographed at Daisy Frames Photography Studios were contacted via phone, text and social media and were told that if they helped out at the business they would get a discount on their photos, according to a statement from Lt. Jeff Klein with the Burlington Police Department.

The studio owner, 40-year-old Christopher Lee King, gave the girls alcohol and drove them to places in rural Des Moines County “where he would require them to “play” sexually oriented games,” Lt. Klein said.  While this was going on, King reportedly fondled the girls and exposed his genitalia to them.

Investigators received multiple reports about this by concerned parents in early February 2015, according to the statement.   Detectives searched King’s business and home finding evidence that was consistent with the reports from victims.

King was arrested on Wednesday, May 6 and charged with two counts of third degree sexual abuse, dissemination/exhibition of obscene materials to minors, indecent exposure, assault/penetration of genitalia or anus with an object, assault, and three counts of supplying alcohol to minors, Klein’s statement said. King was held in the Des Moines County Jail without bond awaiting a court appearance.

Update May 8 2015

Sexual Predator Chris King Remains in Jail
$63,500 Cash Only Bond to Protect Community
More Victims of Sexual Predator Coming Forward

According to court papers former Burlington City Councilman Chris King has admitted to "engaging in sexual acts with several teenage girls."
Court records say King used alcohol to further his depravity.

Burlington Iowa Police Department
Community · 3,410 Likes
May 6 at 3:57pm


Date: May 06, 2015

On February 07, 2015, Burlington detectives were notified by multiple concerned parents that their daughters had been sexually abused. Investigation revealed that area teens had been photographed at Daisy Frames Photography Studios in Burlington.
After the initial sitting, the teen girls were repeatedly contacted through phone, text message and social media accounts. The girls were led to believe that a discount would be given on their photos, if they provided assistance at the studio.
The owner of the studio, CHRISTOPHER LEE KING, provided alcoholic beverages to teen girls and subsequently drove them to locations in rural Des Moines County, where he would require them to “play” sexually oriented games. During these encounters, KING is reported to have forcibly fondled these girls and exposed his genitalia to the victims.
Detectives conducted search warrants at KING’S residence and business and located multiple items that corroborated accounts that had been provided by the victims.
Burlington detectives obtained ten (10) arrest warrants for KING and took him into custody at his residence this afternoon without incident.
This expansive investigation has required a single detective to log more than 500 hours on this case alone. 
While multiple victims have been identified, the investigation is ongoing and additional charges are anticipated. Anyone with additional information is encouraged to contact the Criminal Investigation Division at the Burlington Police Department. 
KING is being held in the Des Moines County Jail, without bond, pending a morning court appearance. Charging information is listed below.





Lt Jeff Klein

Questions regarding this release can be referred to the Criminal Investigation Division between the hours of 9:00am and 3:00pm at (319)753-8370

All suspects are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

Chris King Guilty of Felony Sexual Assault
Iowa's Most Prolific Sexual Predator Headed to Prison
Former Burlington councilman Chris King was found guilty Thursday of three felony counts of sexual abuse involving the assault of four teenager girls.
King showed no outward emotion when the verdict was read by District Judge John Linn.
The trial date for King's second felony sexual assault trial has not been set.
The charade is over.

August 12 2016

Des Moines County Emergency Manager Clears Up Storm Siren Confusion

By Rob Sussman | June 26, 2015

Recent Severe Weather has drummed up questions about the Storm Siren system in Des Moines County.

Those questions arose following three severe weather systems that moved through Southeast Iowa this week. The storm sirens only sounded for the storm that occurred on Saturday.

Des Moines County Emergency Management Coordinator Gina Hardin says that the situations under which the storm sirens will sound are very specific, and unless a storm reaches that threshold, they won’t sound.

“We activate the sirens in the event that there are 70 mile and hour winds during a thunderstorm, a tornado, or golf ball sized hail. We see those as life threatening situations, and that’s when we activate the siren,” Hardin told KBUR.

The threats are determined either when the National Weather Service issues an alert or if they receive information for a law enforcement or emergency official indicating the threat.

Des Moines County has 12 separate storm sirens, all of which, with the exception of the sirens in Danville, are triggered by DESCOM emergency dispatch.

The sirens aren’t foolproof. Sirens in Des Moines County are linked in to the electrical grid and do not have battery backups…so when the power goes out, so do the storm sirens.

Hardin says the sirens primary focus is to warn people who are outside to get indoors, not necessarily to warn those inside to take cover. Those inside should tune to local media outlets or listen to weather radio for their weather information.

“If you’re indoors, with the way houses are built now…you can live close to a siren and not hear it. If you’re watching TV, your air conditioner’s on, or you’re running the vacuum, you aren’t going to hear it,” Hardin said.

“All Clear” signals do not sound from the warning sirens. They fire in two minute long bursts with five minutes in between those bursts.

For more information about the storm siren system, vist, online.

Airlines, pilots see bright future for Iowan's invention

Sunday, January 30, 1994
Des Moines Sunday Register
The wing sensor helps detect dangerous conditions and save fuel.

by dale kasler

Burlington, Ia - A young Burlington company has invented a computerized airplane wing sensor that could be worth millions of dollars.

The company is called AERS/Medwest Inc. and the invention is known as SOLA, the System for Onboard Lift Analysis. The system consists of a set of sensors mounted inside the wings to help the wings and other maladies.

The sensors also could improve fuel economy because they could help the pilot find the "angle of attack" that creates less drag on the wings.

"It's a valuable tool" if it works as advertised, Joe Schwind, deputy safety director at the Air Line Pilots Association. The pilots' union is studying the system.

United Airlines has shown an interest in the system, as have aircraft manufactures Fokker and Canadian.

"We like what we see," said Leo Knaapen, a spokesman for Canadian's parent Bombardier Inc. in Montreal.

But the product is waiting to be cleared for takeoff. Before a single sensor can be sold, the device must get certified, or approved, by the Federal Aviation Administration. The company also plans to get the system certified by Canadian and European aviation authorities.

Normally the certification process could take several years and millions of dollars, said Steven Palmer, president and founder of AERS/Midwest. But Palmer said a potential shortcut exists. Canadian and Fokker are thinking of certifying the device on AERS/Midwest's behalf.

If that happens, the manufacturers would underwrite the certification costs - in return for which they'd have first opportunity to buy the sensors for their planes - and AERS/Midwest could start shipping the product as early as this summer, Palmer said. For its part Canadian said it's only agreed so far ti test the devices. But Palmer said he's confident Canadian will certify the device once the tests are complete.

Even with the manufacturers' help, this project isn't a sure thing. There is likely to be competition. The aerospace division of B.F. Goodrich is developing a similar product.

But if everything works out, Palmer's invention could turn to gold. In papers filed with the Iowa Department of Economic Development, the tiny Burlington company forecasts that annual sales soon could top $100 million.

Palmer, 44, is the son of a pilot. "We were always tinkering, building things around the house, in the garage," he said.

He said he studied engineering in college, although he's never worked professionally as an engineer. Palmer, who has a lot of friends in aviation, was working as a recruiter for a trucking firm when the idea came to him. About three years ago he was tinkering with a personal computer, trying to develop a system to measure the aerodynamic performance of an aircraft wing.

About that time, in March 1992 a USAir jetliner crashed on takeoff at New York's LaGuardia Airport, Killing 27 people. The problem was ice on the wings. The wings on the Dutch-made Fokker-28 had been de-iced at the gate, but by the time the plane made it to the runway,

The 1992 USAir crash in New York convinced Palmer of the need for a device to detect ice buildup on the wings.

ice had accumulated again, according to federal investigators.

The crash convinced Palmer that there was a demand for a device that could precisely detect the buildup of ice. An acquaintance at the FAA began making introductions for him, and in July 1992 he founded AERS/Midwest.

The company is located in a historic old warehouse by the Mississippi River. It has 14 employees, including a retired official with the FAA's Technical Center in New Jersey. It has recruited people from all over the country. Its test pilot, Brad Odom, is a native Iowan who left a job in corporate aviation in Tennessee. Two AERS/Midwest employees work in Texas and another in Arizona.

Palmer and company talk on the phone with aviation people all over the world. "God knows we've had to explain where Burlington is a million times," Palmer said.

The company assembles the few sensor systems it needs for testing at the warehouse; it has plans to lease or build a factory in Burlington if the market takes off. Palmer also wants to build a wind tunnel and research and development center at the Burlington airport someday.

The company has a twin-engine Beech craft at the airport that it uses as its test plane. It also mounts wings on a pickup truck to conduct tests (often, sandpaper is stuck to the wings to simulate the effects of ice).

Once, during a demonstration near Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, the truck ran out if gas in a run-down industrial neighborhood.

But this still is something of a shoestring operation. The company has spent about $1.5 million developing the SOLA system and is trying to raise money to expand its facilities.

The company so far has raised about $1 million, but Palmer said the company isn't havening trouble getting the money it needs. "We have funded as we need to," he said.

AERS/Midwest also has gotten financial aid from the state and the city.

While sitting inside a pickup truck, Ron Freitag gets ready for a test run of the AERS/Midwest system.

Company president Steven Palmer holds a differential pressure sensor, the heart of the system.

John Jay, below, and Dan Smith check the angle of the wing section. Sensors detect surface icing, among other things.

Researchers with AERS/Midwest test their wing deicer with a pickup truck at Burlington Municipal Airport.

AERS/Midwest Burlington ia
edit by Ryan Smith

DM County says prepare for severe weather

March 20 2015

Changing seasons usher in unsettled weather, and the transition from winter to spring is the worst.

From March through June, the probability of a thunderstorm turning into a tornado increases with each passing month. For that reason, Des Moines County Emergency Management officials encourage residents to be prepared and know how to stay safe during and after storms.

“You never know when a storm may hit, creating potential electrical hazards, damage to your home or property, or injuries,” said Gina Hardin, Des Moines County Emergency Management coordinator. “The best solution is to plan ahead and be prepared for the inevitable.”

Hardin’s agency, Des Moines County SkyWarn, the state Department of Homeland Security and Emergency management and the national Weather Service will promote severe weather awareness and preparedness starting Monday during Severe Weather Awareness Week.

During the week, the agencies will feature a different subject on the weather radio and state websites. Themes are:

� Monday - Flash floods

� Tuesday - Weather warnings

� Wednesday - Tornadoes

� Thursday - Severe thunderstorms

� Friday - Family preparedness

The highlight of the week will be the annual tornado drill scheduled for March 25. A test watch will be issued about 10 a.m., followed by a test warning 15 minutes later and the cancelation of both at about 10:30 a.m. The weather service will activate its all-hazard weather radio system and Emergency Alert System, warning sirens will be set off, and the Mediacom cable emergency override system will be tested.andnbsp;andnbsp;

Schools, businesses, state and local governments and individuals will be encouraged to participate in the drill. Additional information about the tornado drill can be found on the Davenport NWS website,

If there is bad weather on the day of the drill, it will be postponed to the next day.

“The drill can be postponed by the National Weather Service if severe weather is threatening other parts of the state, since this is a statewide drill,” Hardin said. “We do not want to confuse anyone with a test if there is a true threat to life or property, and we want citizens to take immediate action to protect themselves.”

Regardless of where they live, residents are encouraged to purchase a weather radio, available at many retailers. The radios are tested between 11 a.m. and noon each Wednesday so owners know they are working. Because the siren system is outdoors, it may not be heard by those who are indoors or not near a siren. If people need help programming their radio, they can contact Hardin’s office.

Brochures and fact sheets about severe weather safety and family preparedness are available at EMA’s website,, or The weather service will promote severe weather safety on its websites and by issuing public information statements. Additional information can be found on social media, including Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, throughout the week using hashtag #IASWAW.

Weather spotter training course set for next week

February 18 2016

Outdoor aficionados looking for a productive way to fill their time may want to consider taking the severe weather spotter course scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Aldo Leopold Middle School.

Organized by the Des Moines County Emergency Management Agency, the free annual course  open to everyone  covers severe weather hazards, including thunderstorms and tornadoes.

The lessons consist of a slide show and video program by National Weather Service meteorologists and will teach attendees about severe storm structure, how to identify cloud features and other environmental clues to identify severe storms and tornadoes. Communications systems and spotter networks will be explained so attendees know the proper way to report information, as well as how that information is used.

Gina Hardin, coordinator of emergency management for Des Moines County, said the majority of Iowa tornadoes occur in April, May and June.

We want people to know what to look for so they can protect themselves, their families and others. If you coach an outdoor sports team, work outside or spend time outside, you should attend this course, she said.

Hardin said the training is invaluable for saving lives and protecting property, and people must know what they are looking at to report it to the National Weather Service. The basis for several severe weather warnings often are directly attributed to local weather spotters.

Representatives of Des Moines County SKYWARN will be at the training taking applications. For more information on the spotter class or SKYWARN, contact the Emergency Management Agency office at (319) 753-8206 or email Gina Hardin at

A complete schedule of all 2016 spotter training courses is available at

Statewide tornado drill set for Wednesday

22 2018

In this file photo Notre Dame Elementary School students "take cover" during a tornado drill March 29, 2017 in the varsity boys locker room. A statewide tornado drill will take place Wednesday at 10 a.m., as part of severe weather awareness week.

john lovretta

Gina Hardin, Des Moines County emergency management coordinator, talks Thursday about the upcoming statewide tornado drill in her Burlington office.

A statewide tornado drill will take place Wednesday at 10 a.m., as part of severe weather awareness week from March 26 to 30.

The National Weather Service will issue a test watch about 10 a.m. and then a test warning about 10:15 a.m. Des Moines County also will activate the outdoor warning sirens during the drill.

All people, whether at work or at home, are encouraged to participate in the drill, said Gina Hardin, Des Moines County emergency management coordinator.

“I think it’s just a matter of having people be prepared, because you don’t know when it’s going to happen,” said Hardin. “And if you have practiced it you know what to do, and you just automatically kick in and do it. A lot of times when you get in stressful situations and you’ve never faced it before you don’t know what to do. You freeze.”

Hardin said severe weather awareness week in Iowa marks a good time for residents to review or create emergency plans.

While the students of Burlington Community School District will be on spring break during the drill, Administrative Assistant Juanita Phipps said the high school students practice tornado and fire drills four times a year.

“Practice, practice, practice,” said Phipps. “So if something does happen the policies and procedures are in place and our students and staff know what to do.”

Hardin said during the drill Wednesday residents should act as they would in a real emergency situation.

During the watch stage, homeowners should bring inside outdoor furniture or anything that could blow away. Business should alert their employees and ensure they know where the shelter areas are located.

During the warning stage, people should seek protection in their shelter areas and account for all their people.

“The best way I can tell people to remember is watch means watch out and warning means take action,” said Hardin.

For those who do not have a plan in place, severe weather awareness week serves as a time to determine the best course of action in case of emergency. Hardin said people should stay inside and stay as low as possible. Go to a basement if possible, she said, or a small interior room.

“Put as many walls between you and the outside as you can,” said Hardin.

The drill will also provide Burlington with it’s first chance to test out the new weather operations center, located next to DESCOM in the basement of the hospital.

The Skywarn team will simulate a real emergency response by sending spotters to designated locations, speaking with the National Weather Service and gathering information with an amateur radio station.

Hardin said the emergency sirens likely will only be heard outdoors. Once indoors, people are encouraged to check their local televisions and radio stations, which will beep with the activated emergency alert system. Those with cell phones capable of receiving alerts will be notified on their phones. Hardin also suggests keeping a weather radio available in your household or business.

Supervisor of Campus Safety and Security Tina Young said the Southeast Community College campuses in West Burlington and Keokuk will participate in the drill, using PA systems and shelter areas.

“We have a duty to keep people without our campus community as safe as possible,” said Young. “And by letting them practice how they would perform gets them to be prepared and therefore safer.”

Sirens in Burlington, West Burlington, Middletown and Yarmouth will run in a cycle of two minutes on, five minutes off, until the drill is completed, due to their old age. Danville and Mediapolis, which both have new sirens with backup batteries, will leave the sirens on for the duration of the drill.

The entirety of the drill should be complete by 10:30 a.m. However, if severe weather occurs anywhere in Iowa Wednesday, the drill will be postponed until Thursday.


Academy will train people to respond in emergencies

Aug 21, 2015

Do you like helping people? Consider attending the Community Emergency Response Team training academy in September, which is National Preparedness Month.

The free training opportunity is appropriate for individuals and families, as well as youth groups, schools, businesses and churches.

The Des Moines County Emergency Management Agency is looking for people who want to be ready for such disasters as tornadoes, floods or ice storms.Training also is helpful for home emergencies.

Basic disaster preparedness training (also called CERT training) will be offered from 8 a.m. to noon Saturdays in Burlington (Sept. 12, 19, 26 and Oct. 3). Attendance at all four sessions is needed to receive a certificate. Location details will be provided upon registration.

Attendees will receive training and hands-on experience in basic medical operations, light search and rescue, fire safety and many other useful disaster skills.

“You never know when the next big emergency is going to hit,” said Gina Hardin, EMA coordinator. “Firefighters constantly train and improve their skills, and everyone should do the same.”

After completing the academy, attendees can become CERT volunteers and help in a variety of ways before, during and after emergencies. The CERT team provides disaster-preparedness information to the public, conducts residential checks, supports traffic and crowd control efforts at parades and runs/walks and staffs the emergency operations center, as well as take the role of victims during exercises to assist the local emergency responders and more.

The activities complement CERT’s philosophy -- “neighbor helping neighbor” -- Hardin said, adding it helps being ready for the next big or even little emergency.

“This program is appealing to us in our tight-knit communities,” said David Mackey, a member of the Des Moines County CERT team. “Chances are high that even a small-scale disaster or incident is going to have an effect on someone we know or on someplace we go.”

“By taking this training, course participants will be able to take steps to safeguard their families against the unexpected and be able to help their neighbors in a time of need,” he continued. “A house or business fire, vehicle accident, a chemical spill, or perhaps a farm machinery or a grain elevator accident--any of these would require quick thinking.”

Hardin said in 95 percent of emergencies, bystanders -- or victims themselves -- are the first to provide emergency assistance or to perform a rescue. Courses such as this help participants prepare for disasters and improve their ability to decide on a course of action when the emergency strikes and act on it quickly.

For more detailed information about the CERT program or to register, visit the Des Moines County Emergency Management website,, and click on the CERT button.

Information and registration details also are available by calling (319) 753-8206 or emailing Hardin at or Mackey at

Seating is limited and registration is due by noon Sept. 4. Once a registration is received, a confirmation email will be sent with additional details.

Participation is not limited to Des Moines County residents

Emergency-response training offered

Feb 24, 2015

The Des Moines County Emergency Management Agency and Community Emergency Response Team training academy are offering two-day classes on basic medical operations, light search and rescue, fire safety and survivor-preparedness skills.

The same CERT course is offered from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on two Fridays and two Saturdays.

The Friday classes will be March 20 and 27, with the Saturday classes March 21 and 28, at Starr’s Cave Nature Center, 11627 Starr’s Cave Road in Burlington.

After training, attendees may become CERT volunteers, according to Des Moines County Emergency Management Coordinator Gina Hardin.

To sign up, go to the Des Moines County Emergency Management website,, and then click on the CERT button.

Registration also may be completed through Hardin by emailing her at or calling (319) 753-8206.

Or register through CERT member David Mackey, whose email is

“This free training is appropriate for everyone -- individuals, families as well as youth groups, schools, businesses and churches,” Hardin said.

How EMC works

Feb 5, 2013

As chairman of the Emergency Management Commission, I feel it is my duty to correct an error printed in the paper’s Jan. 31 news report, concerning discussions at the meeting of the Emergency Management.

The Emergency Management coordinator or the assistant is not an employee of Des Moines County, nor is the coordinator a department head of Des Moines County. The commission is a duly formed municipality under Iowa State Code Chapter 29C.9. The name of the commission is the name of the county that it is located in.

Members of the commission are made up of the mayors of each city in the county, one member of the board of supervisors and the sheriff of the county. The commission members hire and retain the coordinator and anyone else that works for the emergency management commission.

“The commission shall determine the mission of its agency and program and provide direction for the delivery of the emergency management services of planning, administration, coordination, training, and support for local governments and their departments,” according to the Iowa Code Chapter 29C.9 para6.

Historically the funding for emergency management was that each city and county allocated funds through their general fund and by paying per capita dues. This made smaller cities have a greater per capita cost than it did larger communities in the county.

Recognizing this was unfair, members of the Emergency Management Commission voted to change the funding source by having a county-wide levy. Because the levy needs to go through the county supplemental levies (Iowa Code 3310424), the Board of Supervisors have taken over control of the funding source for emergency management and under funding of the agency.

In 2012, the Legislature recognized emergency management commissions need to have the flexibility to set their own levies and passed a bill that would show the levy on tax statements. The error made by the Legislature was that the forms counties submit do not include a separate line showing what that levy would be, thereby it will still be included in the supplemental levies of the county.

The staff of the Des Moines County Emergency Management Commission are dedicated people who perform their job whenever emergencies arise and when called upon by not only local elected, but also state and federal officials. They are not there just for floods, tornadoes and ice storms which we have experienced in the last five years, but they also train members of the community in teams such as SkyWarn and CERT.

The value of these teams, if measured in dollars, is a 5-to-1 return. Investing $8,000 a year and getting close to $50,000 return in volunteer service is well worth the cost.

The coordinator and assistant attend and present many training sessions throughout the year at all volunteer fire departments throughout the county. Some of this training would not be available to the departments and would be additional costs to the individual communities if it were not being provided by emergency management.

They also work with private industry to help prepare them in cases of emergencies.

They have also prepared hundreds of youth to be able to know how to deal with being left at home before or after school until their parents arrive through Home Alone Rangers. It’s a program that teaches first aid, proper nutrition and safety in the home.

All of these programs will be either reduced or eliminated due to the shortsightedness of the Board of Supervisors.

Des Moines County has been fortunate and has in the past realized the value of emergency management; it is something not many of us outside of government are aware of or even know exists, but when called upon I know as an elected official what the true value is, and it cannot be measured just in either three or five cents.



Des Moines County Emergency

Management Commission

Resolve to become a better bystander

Jan 4, 2017

When a crisis strikes, bystanders at the scene can help in the first few minutes and make the difference between a positive outcome and a disastrous one -- especially if they are trained properly.

Community Emergency Response Team, or CERT, training can turn a bystander into a heroic lifesaver during an emergency.

A free local CERT Academy training will be offered Saturday mornings Jan. 21, 28, Feb. 4. There is no obligation to join the Des Moines County CERTeam after completing the training, only the willingness to be ready to help others when they need it.

In an emergency situation, emergency responders may be helping the most critical patients and may not be able to get to all of the injured right away.

There are three things a trained bystander can do to help and perhaps save someone’s life when disaster strikes:

-*- Be willing to help.

Training is an important part of it but also being willing to take care of someone in desperate need. Carrying someone to safety, providing comfort or helping someone find medical care are things most people can do. A prepared bystander is aware of potential risks, knows where to go for help and, most importantly, wants to assist others.

-*-?Become a better bystander.

Many people want to help their friends, families and communities when disaster strikes, but they are not sure how. CERT training covers topics such as basic medical response, fire safety, search and rescue, terrorism and more.

-*-?Support bystander response.

Sign up for the 2017 CERT Academy by registering at www/ and clicking on the CERT logo by Jan. 13. Participants also can call Gina Hardin, Des Moines County Emergency Management Agency coordinator, at (319) 753-8206 or send an email to

Participants need not be a Des Moines County resident to enroll.

Two more enter city council race

Nov 6, 2014

Two more candidates filed papers with the Des Moines County Auditor’s office on Wednesday, swelling the field of Burlington City Council contestants to eight men.

Councilwoman Becky Shockley resigned Sept. 8, and the candidates are vying to finish the remaining three years of her term.

Kevin Long, who ran in 2013 and lost during the primary, is running again at the urging of “a lot of people.”

Long owns Auto Electric, which has been in operation since 1989.

“It’s overwhelming, but like anything else, I’ll make time if win the election,” he said.

He’s lived in Burlington all his life and has been a mechanic for more than 30 years.

“I’m out in the public every day. I run a mobile service, and I know a lot of people in town,” he said. “I’ve got a good reputation. Maybe city council needs a fresh perspective. I don’t think they’ve been working with the community.”

Long said he’s running to get the inside story on city finances.

“I’d like to know what’s really going on. I think we have a lot of unnecessary expenditures,” he said, citing the golf course and the RecPlex.

He wants to look for other ways to save money for the city.

“Money can be cut without cutting the police and fire departments,” he said. “We have a crime issue in this town.”

Long has been married for 32 years, has three children and two dogs.

In addition, Leo Hallowell is running for public office for the first time.

“I have a strong faith in God, and I let Him lead me,” he said. “I love Burlington. I’ve lived in town for 10 years and in the community for 32 years.”

He volunteers for Skywarn, a weather-spotter service, and CERT, a community emergency response team.

Hallowell is married and retired about five years ago after 30 years as a postal worker. He was president of his union local.

“I’ve done a lot of negotiations, and I strive for a win-win solution,” he said. “I’ve been 95 percent successful in that. I observe, listen and weigh the evidence.”

Hallowell said the council could use a new set of eyes.

“The city council needs a fresh perspective,” he said. “It needs to work as a team for the citizens.”

Hallowell said his experience has prepared him to study the city’s finances.

“I have an accounting background,” he said. “I have an associate’s degree in accounting from a college in Davenport that no longer exists. I worked five years in accounting.”

He’s prepared to give everything he has to the council.

“When I commit, I give 110 percent,” he said. “I don’t slack off.”

A primary election will be held Dec. 2, which will narrow the field of candidates to two. The special election will be held Dec. 30.

Area emergency responders converge for tornado training

Apr 9, 2017

Carol Hinkle is taken to an ambulance by members of the Burlington Fire Department and West Burlington Fire Volunteer Fire Department Saturday during a live disaster simulation in the perking lot and surrounding streets of West Burlington Jr./Sr. High School. Following momentum proceeding a week long FEMA training course in Maryland last year, the full scale drill featured between 60-70 participants and included dozen of emergency vehicles.

Leo Hallowell with the Des Moines County Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) gives instructions Saturday during a live disaster simulation in the parking lot and surrounding streets of West Burlington Jr./Sr. High School. Following momentum proceeding a week long FEMA training course in Maryland last year, the full scale drill featured between 60-70 participants and included dozen of emergency vehicles.

A body dummy lays on the ground Saturday during a live disaster simulation in the parking and surrounding of West Burlington Jr./Sr. High School.

Gina Hardin, Coordinator with the Des Moines County Emergency Management Agency coordinates agencies and offers instruction during a live disaster simulation on Saturday, April 8, 2017 in the parking lot and surrounding streets of West Burlington Jr./Sr. High School. Following momentum proceeding a week long FEMA training course in Maryland last year, the full scale drill featured between 60-70 participants and included dozen of emergency vehicles.

WEST BURLINGTON -- When news broke Saturday morning a tornado had touched down in the middle of West Burlington, emergency responders from all over the area were at the ready to assess the damages and rescue victims.

Of course, the tornado didn’t exist.

Emergency responders swarmed a small section of residential West Burlington Saturday morning for a full-scale tornado drill. There was no holding back for the exercise -- between 60 and 70 participants entered a closed off section of town with dozens of emergency vehicles. They proceeded to track down actors playing the role of victims, got them to safety and handled it as though a real disaster had hit.

Des Moines County Emergency Management Coordinator Gina Hardin organized much of the simulation. She said they chose a tornado drill because West Burlington hasn’t had one in years, and the city needs to be sure it’s trained for when something does happen.

“We felt this was a good scenario because we really need to be ready for anything,” Hardin said. “And it really applies to all other kinds of emergencies.”

The simulation was based in the West Burlington High School’s parking lot and stretched around Kimberly Drive. A command station was set up in the school, and a commander sat in a hazardous incident truck radioing information to and from responders on the ground.

Participants used a special tactical radio channel to keep communications from the simulation clear of actual emergency radio channels. Law enforcement and fire workers from throughout Des Moines County and some from surrounding counties were represented, but they kept a team at home base to tend to the day’s actual emergencies.

Burlington police took on four overtime workers for the day and Burlington fire brought another five. However, the “vast majority” of the emergency workers there were volunteering their time, according to Burlington Fire Marshal Mark Crooks.

Radio chatter between the organizations present brought about the important discovery of the day. Some Illinois responders didn’t have access to the Iowa radio channels. If a real emergency had occurred and Illinois responders crossed the Mississippi River to help, they would’ve had a communication breakdown on top of whatever natural disaster.

The location of the drill was chosen for its relative ease to block off and its proximity to the high school. Planners used a large satellite image map stretched over a table to plan. They even used little cones to mark where certain events would happen, and placed matchbox cars down to help visualize the mess of vehicles they would be handling.

They notified residents ahead of time. Jim Stinemates, 57, pulled a lawn-chair out to his front yard and watched the drill go down tailgate style.

“I’ve been chatting with the victims,” Stinemates said. “I brought them out lawn-chairs, offered them my bathroom.”

The area dedicated as the disaster zone was strewn with about 45 victim actors. Responders had to explore the area, access injuries and respond as needed.

Each victim had a card with lists of injuries needing attention. Responders had to handle them according to their specific injuries. Once rescued, those with severe enough conditions were driven to Great River Medical Center.

Some of the victims only were savable by lifting heavy objects and debris. They had fake dummy and cardboard victims under the debris. Once removed, a real person would lie down in its place. Firefighters even chainsawed through wood to simulate cutting through wreckage in some spots.

“The impaled victim was a very good actor,” said Burlington fire Battalion Chief Bruce Workman. “He seemed completely unconscious the whole time.”

A team of expert evaluators watched everything. The responders will be debriefed on what they did right and wrong.

They were set to have more than 60 victims, but only about 45 of the volunteers showed up.

The drill was an opportunity to implement a new public safety program called Salamander. Basically, area first responders were issued identification cards to wear in an emergency response situation. When they arrive on scene, they can be scanned in for command stations to coordinate things on the fly.

Hardin saw the drill as a success in terms of streamlining communication. Salamander was only the technical side. Just getting everyone together in one place and giving them real-world tasks to sort through together helps, she said.

“There were a lot of lessons learned today,” Hardin said. “We still have a lot of work to do.”

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