EMA garners grants to improve emergency services

By Abby Morris
Star Staff
amorris@starhq.com

   As the Carter County Emergency Management Agency works to complete the development of its Emergency Management Plan, grant money from the state has been awarded to help in the process.
   According to Interim EMA Director Reneé Bowers, a planning grant for more than $17,000 was recently awarded to the agency to help offset the cost of developing and updating the emergency management plan.
   "It is guaranteed," Bowers said of the grant, which was given through the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency. "We will have to spend it first and then TEMA will reimburse us."
   Bowers said that she hopes to use those grant monies to purchase a new computer, a laptop, printers and other office equipment and supplies for the EMA office.
   The Emergency Management Plan is an essential part of coordinating emergency services. "It's what everyone abides by if there is an emergency in Carter County," Bowers said.
   According to Bowers, the plan lays out in words what the responsibility of each emergency response agency is, as well as guidelines for how to handle specific emergency scenarios. "It tells everyone what their role is and what they are supposed to do," she explained. "It's a break-down guide of operating procedure. It covers each and every kind of emergency."
   The Emergency Management Plan for Carter County is nearly completed, Bowers said, adding that only the sections on terrorism and animal control are unfinished.
   Once the plan is complete, the focus of the EMA can shift to ways in which to make the plan work effectively as well as ways to be better prepared in the event of an emergency or disaster of some kind.
   One way the EMA is working to prepare for future disasters is by applying for another planning grant which would be used to purchase emergency planning software used to estimate potential losses after a disaster.
   The program uses computerized maps of the county to help calculate damage that could occur during disaster scenarios, according to Chris Schuettler, director of planning and zoning for Carter County, who is working on writing the grant application along with the EMA.
   "The key to it is to run different scenarios so that if that scenario occurs, you know how to handle it and not put emergency workers in harm's way," he said, adding that the software covers situations for "everything from forest fires to floods."
   In addition to planning grants, the EMA is also expecting to get additional grant monies from what is called the "Weapons of Mass Destruction Grant" used to improve the county's hazardous materials response team.
   "We had stated a long time ago that we wanted to create our own HazMat response team," Bowers said. "We're slowly getting what we need. We've come a long way in the past four years."
   In the past, the EMA has received grants for the hazardous materials response team and have used those grant monies to purchase protective gear, communications equipment, video security cameras, ballistic threat body armor, portable repeaters for the radio system and even an equipment trailer to carry the necessary equipment to an incident site.
   Bowers estimated that the county should receive at least $100,000 for the hazardous materials grant this year.