EMA, JSU Create Regional Coalition
February 21, 2013
By Laura Camper
The Cleburne News

The Cleburne County Emergency Management Agency and Jacksonville State University are teaming up to create a regional approach to emergency management.

Jeff Ryan, head of the emergency management department at JSU, said the Regional Coalition for Emergency Managers for Eastern Alabama will allow the university to help agencies focus on regional responses to emergencies.

Representatives of the new coalition, which includes both Calhoun and Cleburne counties, will meet Wednesday at 9 a.m. at the Mountain Center in Heflin to develop a vision statement and host a discussion of what each county would like the coalition to be.

“Whatever we can do to help with respect to emergency preparedness concerns for communities, that’s what this forum will do,” Ryan said.

Ryan said he sees the coalition as an avenue to professional development for the managers and creative solutions to issues facing all the agencies, he said.

In addition, he believes the coalition will be able to enhance any mutual-aid agreements already in place.

Jonathan Gaddy, Calhoun County EMA executive director, said the county has mutual aid agreements with Cleburne, Etowah, Clay, Jefferson, St. Clair and Talladega counties, a group designated by the state as Region 7. Those EMAs already work closely together so the coalition will allow them to maximize the use of local assets, Gaddy said.

The coalition as he sees it will be focused on communication, Gaddy said.

“Communication is a good thing,” he said. “Cooperation is a good thing.”

Cleburne County Administrator Steve Swafford said the area is rich in emergency management training resources, from JSU’s programs to the National Guard’s search-and-rescue program at McClellan to the U.S. Homeland Security Department’s Center for Domestic Preparedness and its training programs.

Creation of the coalition will allow the groups to look at what they have in place and how they can improve it from a regional perspective, Swafford said. It will allow the members access to “the whole world of emergency management academia” as a resource to solve those issues, Swafford said.

The partnership will also allow the members to build relationships, and that will allow the agencies to interact more effectively during emergencies, Swafford said.

They will know and understand what each agency has to offer and be able to access it quickly.

“You’re bringing together expertise,” Swafford said.