Sheriff outlines plan for oversight of EMA

The following is in part the proposal presented to the Washington County Commissioners by Larry Mincks.

Administrative Supervision

The Sheriff’s Office is not interested in firing and/or hiring a new Emergency Management Agency (EMA) Director. We feel the movement of the EMA Director to the Sheriff’s Office for Administrative Control (only) will improve services to the community and produce greater benefits for each tax dollar spent. The current arrangement does not provide for accountability and the establishment of credibility. We are not implying or suggesting the current Director is negligent in any manner. He has always produced whatever and whenever needed. The Office of Commissioners is designed for the overall promotion of the entire County and not for the supervision of one person. We have three Commissioners and they are all assigned various duties; however their responsibilities far outweigh the amount of time they have available. The Sheriff’s Office is designed for 24/7 supervision and management. .

Bullet Reports

We would suggest the implementation of a daily “Bullet Report” at the end of each shift in which accomplishments, activities, incidents, phone calls, calls for service, etc. are articulated. This is not a minute by minute dissertation but an overall summary to provide readers a “General Briefing” from the Office of EMA. This report would be shared with the Commissioners and other individuals with a need to know. Information or activity concerning the security of an infrastructure would have limited circulation. EMA is an important segment of our local Homeland Security and this type of report would help establish credibility and accountability. This type of “Bullet Report” is being utilized with great success throughout all levels of the Sheriff’s Office. In turn the EMA Director should be given access to Daily Homeland Security Briefings from our Fusion Center. Extensive, detailed and adequate record keeping provides a sound basis for additional funding requests to the State and Federal Governments. Washington County has many miles of shoreline and is part of the FEMA Huntington Locks and Dams area which yearly provides many grants for EMA related projects which have not in the past been requested.

Evaluation of Employees

As an employee you have the right to receive a performance evaluation from your supervisor. Are you doing a good job or a bad job? You cannot improve unless you know what you are doing is right or wrong. Our objective is to improve the EMA by providing constructive criticism. Currently the duties of the EMA Director are generalized and not specific and known to the Commissioners and the public. A job description if available should be reviewed and updated. If not available it should be created.

I do not mean to imply the EMA Director is not working, but I think this position requires an immediate supervisor to review daily activities and to offer suggestions as to how services to the public and the County’s preparedness for a disaster can be improved.

The Director should receive at least a yearly evaluation. This establishes accountability and creditability for the individual and the EMA Office. I think we can monitor, direct, and guide these activities and report them to the Commissioners and the public. Everyone in the Sheriff’s Office receives an evaluation by their immediate supervisor.

During August we will have an automated time report program which will provide information as to the number of hours expended on each activity. This could be utilized by EMA to facilitate their planning process concerning mock drills and disasters. This would also identify areas needing attention.

EMA Funds

The Sheriff’s Office is not interested in obtaining money from EMA. I think the distribution of grant proceeds from EMA should be decided by a Committee chaired by one of the Commissioners and composed of one member of every Fire, EMS and Police organization in Washington County. Each representative should be able to vote on who gets what.

Incident Command

The Sheriff’s Office is not interested in controlling or supervising the duties of any fire or EMS organization. We are not interested in Incident Command at any situation which requires the attention and/or services of a Fire Department or EMS Organization. After the situation which required Incident Command has been neutralized and if we have information to indicate a criminal violation has occurred we will make it a crime scene and assume control.

Investigation of Deaths and Serious Injuries

We investigate all deaths and serious injuries outside of municipalities. We respond to all incidents to determine if suspicious circumstances were involved or if we think criminal actions were a contributing factor in the death or injury. The Sheriff’s Office works with the Fire Marshall’s Office as we share jurisdiction on all arson crimes. We rely on local fire departments and the State Fire Marshall to determine the need for further investigation. We are interested in the cause and origin of the fire. Some fires could require the activation of EMA and the Emergency Operations Center. EMA although not the primary provider of shelter for victims; could be activated to coordinate this service.

Volunteer Organization

EMA needs to create and train a group of individuals who can assist during emergencies. The Emergency Operations Center (EOC) at the County level had limited resources during the last Derecho. Local fire departments were opening roads with the use of chain saws and whatever pieces of equipment they could find. With the assistance of the VFD’s the Sheriff’s Office started going house to house checking for trapped individuals and those in need of specialized care such as diabetics, elders, handicapped, shut-in, etc. EMA needs to actively pursue the creation of an extended volunteer organization to assist in these situations. The Sheriff’s Office is currently training a Reserve Deputy class of volunteers to assist in whatever emergency situations may arise. This commitment could be extended to EMA during the time of a storm, flood, chemical spill etc. or whatever functions may be needed.

Proactive Planning

Washington County is historically known as an area that has flooding. Monitoring the Ohio and Muskingum Rivers are conducted largely by the Federal Government. However, EMA could hold meetings with local residents along the Little Muskingum, Duck Creek, Big Run, and other identified bodies of water to discuss monitoring and controlling methods of water produced by severe storms. The EOC could be opened up during each severe storm to monitor and track its progress through the County.

We could identify and designate spotters living along bodies of water to provide water level reports. The Sheriff’s Office maintains a list of low water road locations that close quickly. This information could be combined with spotter information to provide accurate up to date information to individuals living down-stream. EMA could develop a Rapid Notify phone list of persons living along bodies of water to provide them with flash flood (Code Red Warnings) if needed.

EMA could improve communications with utilities companies by holding an annual meeting to discuss potential disasters and hazards and their response plans. They also could meet with interested community members to list actions that can be taken by citizens to increase flood security and recovery.

Equipment Database

We propose preparing a list of equipment available and needed by specific Townships by visiting with Trustees and local fire departments. We need to create and maintain a data base of equipment that is available. If one township needs a piece of equipment and they call the EOC we should be able to provide it to them. This is a function the EMA Director can work on and keep up to date.

Mock Drills

We anticipate incorporating and making EMA an integral part of our mock school drills. We would prepare a work plan in which all local townships trustees and fire departments would be contacted and interviewed concerning potential problems specific to their area and then plan mock drills around these situations. The mock drills do not always have to be large scale drills incorporating numerous agencies. We need to update and prepare Rapid Notify lists and have them available for all different types of scenarios.

Conclusions and Recommendations

We have met with the EMA Director on several occasions to discuss operations. In the past we have worked very closely during several declared emergencies. Some of the areas mentioned and/or suggested may be in place, but could be analyzed and improved. It is our objective to improve the EMA in order for it to be a viable resource in the time of a disaster.

We would suggest transferring the administrative supervision of EMA to the Sheriff’s Office for one year effective July 1, 2014, with quarterly updates presented to the Commissioners for their review. If supervision and management does not meet expectations of the Commissioners it can be returned to their administrative control at any time they desire. .

Larry R. Mincks

Washington County Sheriff