From a Washington D.C. baseball field to terroristic threats from “over there,” we are in trying times. Homeland security has never been more necessary. We, as a nation, define threats, propose solutions, and then cut necessary budgets. We have a strong air force, but to what good do those mega-million dollar planes do for an attack on a D.C. baseball field? But enough conjecture. Let’s look and see what we can do.
Emergency response planning and preparation (for today, P&P), on a local level, is a little more involved. The bigger the picture, i.e., local-to-state-to federal, the more general the P&P. This is shown by the distribution of our tax dollars:
• Federal Government wants increased Homeland Security
• Major funding is distributed to the states by population and threat assessment.
• States distribute their share to counties by population and threat assessment.
• Counties P&P what they can do with their share.
The Meigs County Health Department (MCHD) receives federal money for its Emergency Response Plan (ERP) in just this manner. CDC wants a Public Health ERP for the nation, sends money to the state health departments which sends money to the local health departments (LHD). All follow CDC guidelines.
Free rein over expenditures at the LHD level is not free. Planning “guidance” is given on expenditures:
• What the plans need to address
• What can be purchased with funds
• Of course, what reports need to be filed
• And on and on
So, what does Meigs County get for its $65,000/yr.? (Meigs County average share for 2013-2017).
First, an Emergency Response Coordinator (ERC) to do the planning, reporting, spending and preparing for the county to satisfy the stated and the feds.
Second, a fiscal coordinator to pay the bills and keep track of the expenses (this is a part-time cost for the ERP, the fiscal coordinator works full-time for the MCHD.
Third, hardware purchases such as, Internet, VoIP Phones, some computers and a server. (And, maybe a pencil with an eraser).
So, we have some minor funding ($2.83 for each person (Meigs pop. rounded to 23,000)). We have a plan, we work well with the County entities (Commissioners, EMA, EMS, 9-1-1, VFDs (volunteer fire departments), LE (law enforcement), and the LEPC (Local Emergency Planning Committee).
So, what’s missing?
Local people involvement.
In the last decade, all levels of government knew that all plans and preparations needed to involve people. People are the key to any homeland security P&P. People who “see something, say something!” Without this practice, we could not know what’s going on in the county.
Over the past few months, in Meigs County, residents used the saying in some instances of theft. Facebook and news articles talked about people at all hours of the day and night pulling into country driveways and knocking on doors to see who was home. Some thefts and B & E’s happened. Residents and their neighbors saw this and reported to the sheriff what was going on. The culprits were soon caught. See something, say something worked.
Last summer, the EMA received a report of a barge going aground at the dock near the Pomeroy parking lot. It was reported as a container of noxious, gaseous, chemicals and some people were concerned and called 9-1-1. The EMA and Sheriff investigated and found that the barge crew had docked to pick up lunch. No big deal, but “see something, say something worked.”
We can do all the planning and preparation we need, but if we never know what’s happening to use the P&P, its wasted effort. REMEMBER, if “You See Something, Say Something!”
Frank Gorscak works for the Meigs County Heath Department where he’s the Emergency Response Coordinator.