POINT PLEASANT — Dennis Zimmerman took office as Mason County 911 Director on Dec. 1, 2016, and has since made significant changes in the Emergency Management Agency in Mason County.
Under Mason County 911 there are two primary branches that work to serve the community during emergencies: the 911 Telecommunications Center and the Emergency Management Agency, EMA.
“The first thing we did was reorganize” said Zimmerman. After watching how things worked for several weeks, “then I went to the commission and said the Emergency Management Agency is horribly understaffed.” That led to Matt Gregg being named Deputy Director of Mason County EMA. This reorganization has led the EMA to be better at what they do — hazard mitigation, noted Zimmerman. The biggest hazard for those in Mason County is flood damage.
“Matt [Gregg] is the flood plain coordinator for the county, he is fully trained and certified and is capable to help with flood damage” explained Zimmerman. EMA is the agency through which FEMA and other organizations work to help locally those who have suffered loss in an emergency.
Under the EMA side, the LEPC (Local Emergency Planning Committee) and CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) work to be prepared in an emergency.
“Because we’re in such a rural area, if a serious disaster strikes we will have to rely on volunteers” said Zimmerman. the LEPC works with local agencies (fire, EMS, law enforcement) to prepare for disasters.
“With the LEPC we plan for the worst, and hope for the best” said Gregg. The most influential thing the LEPC does, is their disaster drill. They stage an incident in which 911 and any necessary agencies must respond as if it is a real emergency.
“We plan these to exercise ourselves, so that we can find the deficiencies and be better prepared” said Zimmerman.
CERT is made up of volunteers in the community that have been trained to assist emergency operations in a disaster scenario. They coordinate with the amateur radio operators for communications, and assist in numerous ways to better facilitate hazard mitigation and emergency response.
The 911 center is likely more familiar to the general public, as they are the direct connection to emergency personnel and law enforcement. Over this department is RC Faulk, who has been with the agency since 2005, and is proud of the quality of staff that answer the phones and radios, and work to serve as the first point of contact for the public in a crisis situation.
“I would brag on the telecommunicators. They are skilled and good at what they do, and I think they are some of the best” said Faulk.
“When I do training [with emergency personnel] I always ask who is the incident commander? Most people don’t realize that it’s the telecommunicators. They are always the first point of contact” said Zimmerman.
Reach Morgan McKinniss at 740-446-2342 ext 2108.