At it's regular meeting Thursday night, the Decatur County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) advisory board voted to have a full-time EMA director in place by Jan. 19, 2012.
The regular director will replace current interim director Lieutenant Rob Duckworth of the Decatur County Sheriff's Department. Duckworth, however, will remain in place during the EMA's transition to the new, permanent director.
"The new director," Duckworth said after the meeting, "May or may not have all the necessary certifications. That's why, in large part, I was appointed interim director this summer: I've earned the necessary certifications as part of my regular job duties, and that made me a good fit for the interim position."
Duckworth intends to remain in place as long as it takes to help the EMA and the new director adjust.
The agency also discussed the ongoing implementation of the "Nixle" alert system for Decatur County emergency responders. While Nixle text alerts are free to members of the public, a network is being created for special alerts to first responders. In the event of an emergency or a disaster, Nixle enables a "tone-to-text," wherein emergency calls are instantly channeled to each responder's cell phone via text message. The charge for this service is around $1,500.
Duckworth recently completed CERT (Community Emergency Response Teams) trainer training at Camp Atebury for non-public safety responders. The agency expressed hope for a public CERT course in March.
The CERT program will now be district-wide, based on Decatur County's designation as District 9 within the Homeland Security Group. Thanks to a district grant from the Department of Homeland Security, Duckworth will attend the All Hazards District Management Conference in San Diego, Dec. 5 through Dec. 9.
The EMA also discussed Decatur County's ongoing creation and implementation of a Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan (CEMP). The current plan being created was taken from Shelby County's CEMP plan template, which was itself dervived from a federal template.
In other business, the current Sprint/Nextel equipment "rebranding" project, stemming from Sprint/Nextel's changeover to 800 megahertz, is moving along as projected and will likely be completed in 2012.
The agency also approved the re-use of existing phone lines within the Sheriff's Department building on South Ireland Street for the Emergency Operating Center (EOC) housed within the structure. According to Duckworth, the building also houses the County's Department of Solid Waste, the Coroner's Office, the ISP, the Department of Veteran's Affairs, Work Release and other Decatur County government entities. All these entities use phone lines that can be employed by the EOC in the event of a disaster or emergency. Using existing phone lines instead of installing new lines - lines that will remain dormant during non-emergency times - will save $23 per additional phone line.
Ripley County has submitted a no-cost mutual aid agreement request with Decatur County. Under that agreement, in the event of a Ripley County disaster or emergency in which Decatur County provided assistance, Decatur County would be ineligble for federal reimbursement dollars. Since such a contract might not necessarily be in Decatur County's best interest, the two sides are currently discussing all possibilities. There are currently no formal contracts ready for signature.
The advisory council also discussed the ongoing efforts to cover the cost of debris removal and infrastructure damage from the May 23 and 25 storms. Because Decatur County was excluded from FEMA funds under that agency's Emergency Declaration, Decatur County has applied for reimbursment through the State Disaster Relief Fund, which is funded through taxes on fireworks.
The EMA will meet with the County's Snow Mobile Teams in December to organize and plan for the winter season. These teams provide county-wide assistance if a snow storm makes roads impassable, providing residents with medical assistance and medications.
The EMA advisory council will next meet Jan. 19, 2012, when a new, permanent director will be in place.
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