Representatives of local emergency management agencies, Jacksonville State University, the Center for Disaster Preparedness and the Anniston Army Depot came together to create a new coalition that they said they hope will lead to better communication and better cooperation between their respective organizations.
“We’re all here for the same reason,” said Greg Militano, an emergency management officer at Calhoun County EMA.
Area EMAs benefited from having Chemical Stockpile Emergency Preparedness Program funding while chemical weapons were stored at the Anniston Army Depot. Those chemical weapons have since been destroyed, and the CSEPP money is gone. Jonathan Gaddy, director of the Calhoun County EMA, noted his agency went from almost 20 personnel to four after losing the program money.
“We got spoiled,” said Mike Bryant, director of the Etowah County EMA. “We had adequate funding. We had adequate personnel. And then all of a sudden it’s gone.”
Now the groups, with much smaller staffs and budgets, are trying to serve their communities just as they always have and that has made looking to other agencies for support a priority, Gaddy said.
Most of the EMAs represented are in a wider state-designated district together and have mutual aid agreements. However, those agreements are operational, Gaddy said.
“I think the trick to a successful mutual aid agreement is to take it from operations to a steady state, where you’re sharing resources not just in disasters but all the time,” Gaddy said.
Steve Swafford, Cleburne County Administrator and head of the county’s EMA, agreed. Working together the various groups have the opportunity to become something greater than they could be alone. But he said the group has to choose specific tasks or projects and work on those to make that happen, he said.
“We all bring specific needs to the table; we all bring specific resources to the table,” Swafford said.
It’s how those needs and resources fit together to accomplish the projects that will determine the success of the coalition, he said.
Jeff Ryan, chair of JSU’s emergency management department, said the university is there to offer its assistance in the use of internships, graduate student research and other educational resources. The CDP and the Anniston Army Depot also have resources the agencies can rely on, the representatives offered.
The group will meet again in April or May at the Calhoun County EMA.
Staff writer Laura Camper 256-463-2872.