FREDERICKTOWN — Despite being a small county, it is still a good idea to stay prepared in case of a large-scale emergency.
The Knox County Emergency Management Agency held a presentation for local elected officials Saturday morning in Fredericktown. Its director detailed the roles of officials, townships and various levels of government in the event of a disaster.
Mark Maxwell, Director of the KCEMA, talked at length about what it is the agency does and what the basics of emergency management are. The purpose of the session was to provide local officials an overview of emergency management and their roles in a disaster or other emergency if one was to occur.
“Really, it’s about working together as a team,” Maxwell said. “If we do have a disaster, keep in mind that I am there to assist you. You, as the elected officials, are in charge.”
Maxwell referenced two larger incidents that have occurred in the area within the last 40 years in his presentation — in which several of the attendees had been a part.
“We’re talking about 1978 (the blizzard) and 2004 (a major ice storm). One of the great things is we don’t have to worry about disasters in Knox County too frequently. But one of the bad things is that we don’t have to worry about disasters in Knox County too frequently,” Maxwell said. “People kind of get the mindset that bad things aren’t going to happen in Knox County, so we don’t really spend the time or the thought in preparation. That’s why its so important that we’re all here.”
Maxwell touched on several other topics throughout his presentation such as zoning; mitigation projects, such as tornado safe rooms; general preparedness; response; and the disaster declaration processes.
In regards to declarations, according to Maxwell, if the local resources run out during an incident, then the local elected officials can declare a local state of emergency and can request help from the state and then the same thing can happen at the state level. The governor of a state then can request assistance from the federal government and the president can eventually issue a Major Disaster or Emergency Declaration if it is required because of the scale of the event. He mentioned the tornado in Xenia in 1974 as an event of that magnitude.
Another topic Maxwell mentioned was the loaning of equipment and subsequent equipment operators between townships. He said that his agency didn’t have the ability to take from one place to give to another, but the process was more about him acting as the go-between to facilitate help between entities.
“It’s all about knowing what resources are available and trying to identify how we can meet those needs,” Maxwell said. “But we don’t have the authority to go commandeer your stuff.”