Jasper County has had its share of severe weather causing significant and extended disruption of electrical power impacting the public’s safety and the well-being of citizens. It has been and continues to be a major concern of public safety and elected officials in our communities.
In response to these situations, the Jasper County Sheriff's Office began obtaining trailer mounted, military-grade generators and built auxiliary electrical panels that could be deployed to provide power to designated community facilities or critical infrastructure during emergencies.
However, review of the impact and resource needs from the August 2020 derecho brought to light the need to better prepare for future weather events that may lead to extended power outages and widespread damage to people’s homes and property.
"During the extended power loss following the derecho, we were able to assist facilities with vulnerable populations on a very limited basis. We soon realized we needed a better plan for future events," said Josh Harding of the Jasper County EMA.
Whether it was that summer derecho or the threat of an early spring tornado, it became apparent to officials that a large-scale sheltering operation may be needed within the county for a major disaster with extended power outages. The shelter would need to have a stand-alone power source and have the ability to operate when all other resources had been overwhelmed or utilized.
Out of this need rose a partnership between the City of Newton, the Newton YMCA, Alliant Energy, the American Red Cross, and the Jasper County Emergency Management Agency. Discussions and planning began in earnest resulting in a designated shelter area with generator back-up at the Newton YMCA.
Alliant Energy, which provides electrical power to the community and is a partner in many projects, provided a stationary generator capable of powering the gym and adjoining rooms at the Newton YMCA. Donating the generator for the shelter area benefits the community,” said Matt Hansen, manager of customer operations at Alliant Energy. “We are proud of this partnership to prepare for emergencies caused by severe weather while we remain focused on ensuring safe and reliable service to customers.”
The Newton YMCA agreed to oversee the maintenance of the generator. With this partnership, there is now a designated space for the American Red Cross to set up, staff, and operate a shelter following national guidelines during natural disasters. "The YMCA is proud to partner with Alliant Energy, EMA, and the City of Newton in ensuring a safe, reliable, and spacious facility for anyone a devastating natural disaster may impact," said Lucas Hughes, chief executive officer at the Newton YMCA. "Having a designated emergency shelter center in Jasper County only strengthens our communities and gives a safe haven to those who may need it in the direst times."
The City of Newton covered the installation costs of the generator with financial grant assistance from the Jasper Community Foundation. “The City of Newton is extremely proud of the partnership that came together to come up with a plan to provide a long-term emergency shelter. The safety of our residents is of the utmost importance to all of our elected officials and the investment the City put towards this project will help us accomplish that in the event of another natural disaster. The efforts between Alliant Energy, Jasper County EMA, the Newton YMCA, and the City of Newton are what keeps our community moving forward, even when planning for the unknown,” stated Mayor Mike Hansen.