News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

November 30, 2012

Vigo EMA named top program in District 7

TERRE HAUTE — For the second straight year, the Vigo County Emergency Management Agency has been recognized as the top EMA program in District 7 by the Indiana Department of Homeland Security.

Vigo EMA Director Dr. Dorene Hojnicki recently received notice of the IDHS Director’s Award recently, which comes with a cash reimbursement from the state as well as an equipment grant.

Hojnicki recently received additional congratulations for the award from District 7 coordinator Jerry Sears, who said the Vigo County team is a good example of multiple local agencies working together to keep county residents safe.

“We appreciate the county commissioner for allowing the staffing to happen,” Hojnicki said of local government support of EMA, “and putting that energy and effort into it has allowed us to have this success.”

Vigo EMA is not just the staff that works in the headquarters located on the 181st Tactical base at Hulman Field. Along with police and fire department partnerships, the EMA team has good relationships with the local ministerial associate, American Red Cross, ham radio operations, and many community volunteers.

“We wouldn’t be successful without our local responders and community partners, such as the county-based fire and rescue units and the ham radio operators,” said assistant EMA director J.D. Kelser.

Of the eight counties that comprise District 7, Vigo County has the largest staff, Sears said. Seven of the eight counties received funding as a result of their IDHS assessment scores, but Vigo received the highest score.

Hojnicki said the EMA team has learned a lot through the years in dealing with local disasters -- most memorable being the flood of 2008. But other issues have brought together the EMA team, sometimes in areas that would not have been so obvious prior to 9/11.

For instance, Vigo County Search and Rescue is based at the EMA office, and that team has worked on locating lost adults and children, as well as searching areas for crime scene evidence.

The ham radio operators have become essential in handling large events, such as recently immunization clinics, where mobile communication skills are crucial to keep lines moving and supplies available.

Hojnicki said that a new project for EMA is establishing a volunteer medical reserve corps, where health care professionals are included in trainings in case of events where triage skills and treatment are needed. Another volunteer area is a citizen corps for community policing, to take some of the burden off EMA and the sheriff’s department.

Sheriff Greg Ewing said the EMA’s planning events have helped prepare the county for future disaster events.

“It is about being proactive, rather than reactive,” Ewing said.

Having multiple agencies working together is good testimony about the cooperation among local public safety agencies, he said.

“We are all on the same page, and trying to achieve the same goals, and that is the safety of Vigo County residents,” Ewing said.

All of the participating agencies fill a niche that allows resources to be delivered where they are most needed in the most efficient way, he said.

Hojnicki said Vigo EMA plans to use its equipment funding to purchase a pre-stocked cart with traffic cones, gating, tables and other equipment that will allow a safety perimeter to be set up at emergency scenes.

Reporter Lisa Trigg can be reached at (812) 231-4254 or lisa.trigg@tribstar.com. Follow her on Twitter @TribStarLisa.

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