Multi-Agency Cooperation Fuels Bridge Recovery

Tuesday, August 14, 2007
By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (SW/AW) Elizabeth Merriam, Fleet Public Affairs Center Atlantic

As crews move forward in recovery efforts of the I-35 bridge collapse, multiple agencies are working together to make the job move smoothly. “The overall coordination and support we’ve received from local, state and federal authorities have been absolutely tremendous,” Hennepin County Sheriff, Richard W. Stanek said. “The efforts that folks have been putting forth have been non-stop.”

While agencies like the Defense Department and FBI had to be called in from out of state, local agencies have been working on site from the beginning. Each arriving agency has been integrated swiftly into the recovery process. "When you bring in a military organization, you get quick concise crisp answers to questions,” Stanek said. “Whatever issue has come up, whatever the operation for the day or the evening has been, we’ve been able to communicate directly and strategize on how to get over any obstacles. You couldn’t ask for a better cooperation than that.” While the teams are working together, they each bring different skill sets to the job that helps them complete their individual tasks in support of the overall mission. “There came a point where the divers for the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office in scuba diving maxed out their capabilities, so we had to ask for additional assistance. (The Defense Department) brought in the best of the best, which I believe are the Navy dive and salvage (teams),” Stanek said. “They have not disappointed us a bit, and in fact went beyond our expectations as far as what they could do both operationally in terms of debris removal, the equipment they brought on site and the speed in which they deployed.”

While the bridge collapse is a first in terms of collaboration on this scale for many members of the different agencies, they have bonded together in support of the mission. “I think that the command staff that was brought in from DoD, the divers themselves, and the command staff I have on site from the sheriff’s office bonded from day one,” Stanek said. “I think that’s really what has made this work happen. Our job of working with the victims, our job of working with the policy makers and the citizens of this great state is to give them some comfort and confidence that we’re taking to the task at hand, which is reuniting the families with their loved ones.”

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