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EMA role has snowballed since 9-11, Reas says

Since Sept. 11, 2001, emergency management agencies have been inundated with grants and paperwork, especially ones pertaining to Homeland Security.
‘The role of EMA has greatly expanded because of (the threat of) terrorism,’ Greg Reas, Harrison County EMA director, told the Harrison County Commissioners at their June 16 meeting.
Since October, the EMA office has received $86,367 in grants, and three more are expected by the end of the year.
One of those, a $16,167 planning grant, has several requirements, including a hazard, vulnerability and risk analysis, and the conduction of an exercise plan, which Reas said will take place late this month.
The funding that’s been received has been divided among protective equipment ($40,000 estimated), planning ($16,167), other equipment ($28,000), and CERT (Community Emergency Response Teams) ($2,200).
‘A lot of these grants are specific, and we can’t vary off them,’ Reas said.
The EMA board, Reas said, is requesting that a portion of the funds ‘ not to exceed 25 percent of the full amount ‘ received in the planning grant be used to pay for some of his overtime.
‘The paperwork is creating a work load,’ he said.
Reas also asked for permission to use some of the funds to network the three computers used by the EMA office and to purchase a higher capacity laser printer, and buy an additional gas monitor testing machine, testing gear and a mobile command center.
‘We desperately need to get a remote site for the north part of the county done, too,’ he said. ‘That would provide communication in dead spots.’
‘This is a communication need; it has nothing to do with the (warning) sirens’ that the county installed early last year, he said.
Reas said riverboat funds were used to install a remote site in the south part of the county.
The commissioners agreed to send Reas to the county council to request $19,500 from the Human Services fund (riverboat money) for the receiver site for the northern portion of the county and to network the computers. The requested amount also would allow for the purchase of needed software.
Also during the meeting, the commissioners gave Reas the OK to ask for up to 25 percent of the planning grant for overtime, $2,000 for a printer, and $8,000 to equip a vehicle that would be used during emergencies involving hazardous materials.
While Reas and EMA board member Gerald Saulman were before the commissioners, they were questioned about the evaluation being conducted on each of the county’s 10 volunteer fire departments.
‘The fire department inspections will be turned over to Greg (when finished), which should help him greatly,’ Saulman said.
‘The fire departments are light years ahead of where they were,’ Reas said, ‘mostly due to riverboat funds.’
At the June 9 meeting of the council, chairman Gary Davis said the request made by Reas will be advertised and acted upon at the council’s July 14 meeting.