Emergency management director attends homeland security seminar

Clermont County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) Director Beth Nevel attended an emergency management and homeland security seminar in Columbus Sept. 14.

“The seminar was conducted by the Ohio Emergency Management Agency,” Nevel said. “The 88 county EMA’s in the state meet twice a year with the Ohio EMA and their staff. It is important that local directors come together with the Ohio EMA representatives to ensure coordination in planning and training for response efforts during a disaster. All disasters are local, but can quickly escalate into situations needing resources from state and federal agencies to protect the lives and property of our citizens.”

In addition to emergency management and homeland security training initiatives and issues, the seminar participants discussed hazardous materials, terrorism response, and operational procedures related to pandemic influenza.

“The seminar is basically a coordination and sharing of information between county and state EMA’s,” said Nevel. “Part of it is training, part of it is finding out what is new, and then improving what we are currently working on. It is a networking with other EMA directors to ensure that our plans mesh with their plans because they are who we would call when we run out of local county resources.”

Nevel has been the director of the County Department of Public Safety Services (which includes the EMA) for almost seven years.

“We are the 911 and communications agency for the county,” she said. “We take all 911 calls and then dispatch emergency resources for 27 different agencies here in the county, including the sheriff’s office. We handle 1,300 emergency calls every day. I have oversight of the daily operations of the 911 center.”

According to the Ohio Revised Code, every county in the state is required to have an emergency management agency or be in contract with a neighboring county that does have an EMA.

“One of the things we learned in the seminar was response to a crisis or disaster. We are trained to respond not to do what the fire/police/and EMS services do, but to coordinate those resources to recover from a disaster.”

Other seminar topics discussed included the Incident Command System, the role of the State Disaster Relief Program, and the requirements for the National Incident Management System (which President Bush has mandated for federal assistance in disaster relief).

“We take an all hazards approach to emergency planning,” said Nevel. “We plan, train, and exercise for any emergency. That would include anything that impacts the county, such as any disaster, natural or man-made. We coordinate the local disaster declaration, and if needed, coordinate response and recovery efforts with the Ohio EMA and FEMA.”

Nevel points out that the biggest partner in all of the EMA’s effort are the county citizens.

“We conduct public education in an attempt to get citizens to take an active role in taking care of themselves. We cannot do this by ourselves. It takes the responders, it takes our elected officials, it takes our agency, but, most importantly, it takes the citizens in helping us to prepare and be our partners in a disaster. Citizens are our eyes and ears out in the community. They read the pulse of what is going on and can react very quickly. Emergency management is a partnership.”