Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

February 26, 2013

County EMA director pleased with agency’s progress

Rob Cox
Greensburg Daily News

Greensburg — In a brief supplementary interview Tuesday afternoon to last Thursday’s Emergency Management Agency (EMA) meeting, EMA Director Rob Duckworth provided details regarding the agency’s ongoing efforts to better prepare the county for emergencies.

Duckworth anticipates completion of the purchase of a bookmobile from the Greensburg-Decatur County Public Library sometime in May or June.

The EMA plans to convert or “re-purpose” the vehicle into a Mobile Command Unit (MCU).

“We’re purchasing the vehicle for $1,000,” Duckworth explained. “They [the library] probably could’ve gotten more for it, but they felt it important to keep the vehicle in the county. They purchased the vehicle new, so it’s always been used in the service to the county, and they wanted it to continue benefiting the community.”

Duckworth was confident that an MCU will greatly enhance the EMA’s ability to respond to emergencies by allowing the agency to set up onsite emergency- or disaster-scene operations far more efficiently and quickly.

He added, “What do you do when parts of critical infrastructure normally used to respond to an emergency get damaged in the event itself? That’s what happened with the May 2011 tornado. An MCU in such cases becomes critical to timely, effective response.”

“I feel like we’re better prepared now than we were in May 2011,” he said. He was quick to add that the EMA is far from finished in enhancing preparedness.

Also high on the EMA’s priority list, Duckworth said, is a comprehensive “All Hazard Instant Management Plan.”

Duckworth described the plan as a set of “specific plans for dealing with known hazards.” “Basically,” he explained, “we conduct a hazard assessment for the county and city and look for known instances we’d most likely be pressed to respond to. The assessment is based both on previous incidents or on items in the community with the potential to create an emergency — damn or levy breaches for instance.”

Some of the most common examples of such hazards, he added, include tornadoes, airplane crashes and wild-land fires.

Duckworth further characterized the All Hazard Instant Management Plan as a continual work in progress that’s always being enhanced and revised.

“The county has always had such a plan, but we’ve worked hard on revising and moving it forward,” he said.

The agency also recently completed installation of additional weather and communications equipment in Greensburg and communications centers around the county. The equipment was made possible by a recent grant for $4,054 from the Indiana Department of Homeland Security.

Duckworth explained, “That equipment allows personnel in those centers to monitor weather radar, which can be of critical importance to first responders in the field. Those first responders often simply don’t have access to the most up-to-date data they need for effective emergency planning.”

In example, Duckworth mentioned events such as the County Fair and other large public gatherings that stand to benefit the most from the new equipment.

He stressed that the money for the upgrades came not from the county or city’s general funds, but from a state- and national-level entity. More, the grant was awarded based on a performance assessment of the Decatur County EMA conducted by the Indiana Department of Homeland Security.

“I feel very positive about the direction our EMA is headed in,” Duckworth said.

Contact: Rob Cox at 812-663-3111 x7011.