Ex-cop now county’s emergency point man

Dan Carlson
Dan Carlson

Carlson had long career with Burnsville Police Department

Dan Carlson won’t let a disaster go to waste, whether it’s a raging apartment fire or a damaging storm.

A former Burnsville cop with both events on his resume, Carlson has been named emergency preparedness coordinator for Dakota County. He begins work March 18.

“You’re never going to have a perfect response,” said Carlson, whose job is part of the county sheriff’s office. “You try and minimize the impacts. You try to learn from each incident, whether it’s an exercise or the real thing, and then you make adjustments to the plan.”

When thunderstorms damaged parts of Dakota County last June 19, Carlson, working as a consultant, helped coordinate the disaster-relief request to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

In 2008, as a Burnsville police sergeant and the city’s emergency management coordinator, Carlson was faced with 400 displaced residents three days before Christmas when fire destroyed one of two buildings at the former Burncliff Apartments.

He worked with the Minnesota Valley Transit Authority and Burnsville High School to provide temporary shelter in buses and in the school cafeteria. Twenty-nine residents were sheltered overnight, and by 5 p.m. the next day, they had all found places to stay.

“Dakota County is fortunate to find an individual with Dan’s expertise and experience in emergency management,” Sheriff Dave Bellows said.

Carlson said his experience and his familiarity among emergency managers around the county will smooth the transition between him and his predecessor, Dave Gisch, who retired after 29 years as emergency preparedness director.

Carlson, 52, said he’s a “known commodity.”

“There’s really not a need to make new relationships,” he said. “We can continue with the relationships we have and not have to waste time in relationship development. You don’t want to be exchanging business cards during a disaster.”

Carlson began his police career in 1980, working in Dodge Center and Marshall before coming to Burnsville in 1986. He was on patrol until 1993, when he was named the department’s planning, training and research officer.

Carlson was promoted to sergeant in 1998. He was emergency management coordinator from 2006 to 2010, when he retired from the Police Department.

Carlson then established himself as a private consultant. The county hired him to work with Gisch and municipal emergency managers on special projects and on developing emergency exercises for responders.

As the county’s point man on emergency preparedness, Carlson said his role is to establish relationships with cities and help in any way possible.

“I certainly hope to meet with all the police and fire chiefs, gain a perspective on how we can be collaborative in planning for future emergencies,” Carlson said. “They’ll know that the county is here to help them in any way that they want and are comfortable with.”