Wright Preparedness Advisory Council receives national award

WPAC members Randi Cowart (from left), Robby Gallob, Michael Phipps and Mark Slaten participated in a June NWS storm spotter class at Upton Fire Department's fire station. (Robby Gallob)

GILLETTE, Wyo. — The Wright Preparedness Advisory Council, or WPAC, received national recognition Tuesday for its emergency management work.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Weather Service recognized WPAC among its 2022 “Ambassadors of Excellence.” NOAA and NWS have posted a map here that shows the nation’s 2022 Ambassadors of Excellence.

NWS Rapid City Warning Coordination Meteorologist Susan Sanders the office selected WPAC from among 55 WRN ambassadors in its territory. Wright was also the sole Wyoming ambassador to receive the 2022 recognition, the national map showed.

Ambassadors include law enforcement agencies, school districts, hospitals and statewide agencies, Sanders said. Campbell County Health and Campbell County School District are among the ambassadors.

Sanders said that while determining which organization to recognize for the annual award, they review the work each organization has done to help their community.

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Ambassadors of Excellence inspire others to be ready, responsive and resilient, engage their communities in innovative ways, form unique collaborations with NOAA and other ambassador organizations to achieve goals they can’t independently meet and address vulnerable populations’ needs, the national announcement said.

“[WPAC is] definitely in the community, reaching out and helping the community get prepared. … They’ve really been proactive in reaching out to people,” she said.

She said it’s especially important that newcomers to the area have the information they need to get adjusted to the new climate that they’re experiencing. The COVID-19 pandemic made it difficult for NWS Rapid City staff to attend local events, so until recently, they had to lean a lot on the ambassadors.

WPAC members train in emergency response and host public storm safety presentations every spring and summer, Town of Wright Emergency Management Coordinator and WPAC Director Robby Gallob said. They also do springtime storm safety presentations for third- and fourth-grade students at Cottonwood Elementary, Wright’s Silver Sage Senior Center in Wright and the Thunder Basin Belles women’s community service group. WPAC members also help install smoke detectors with the American Red Cross.

Gallob said he and his friend Michael Phipps started WPAC in 2018. The mayor and council of Wright gave their approval in fall 2018. Phipps was a damage assessment lead and Gallob was a disaster assistance team lead and preparedness lead with the American Red Cross. Both responded to the 2018 Oriva Hills tornado. They wanted the Wright community to be more aware of community safety, emergency plans and weather.

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“Preparedness and help build a mind frame of being proactive not reactive when disasters happen,” Gallob said.

Gallob had previously launched a Facebook page and group, “Robby’s Radar,” to share this kind of information, but he and Phipps discovered there was more to do.

WPAC works with the Campbell County Emergency Management office, Wyoming Office of Homeland Security, American Red Cross, National Weather Service and several responder agencies to bring and promote safety and preparedness to the Wright area.

The organization received NOAA and the NWS WRN ambassador accreditation May 18 this year, Gallob said. Phipps and Gallob also started training this year to become program managers and train trainers for Community Emergency Response Team, or CERT. WPAC will help Campbell County Emergency Management bring this program back to life in both Wright and Gillette.

Randi Cowart and Mark Slaten are also part of the WPAC. With Gallob and Phipps, the four individuals are Campbell County Skywarn storm spotters. To learn more about becoming a spotter, check out Campbell County’s emergency management webpage here. Anyone who wants to join WPAC or the American Red Cross or has any questions about either can email WPAC at wpac@wrightwyoming.com or call or text 307-622-7411.

Mark Slaten (from left), Randi Cowart, Michael Phipps, Campbell County Emergency Manager David King and Robby Gallob make a weather presentation in Wright in June. (Robby Gallob)