READY FOR ANYTHING: Disaster preparedness focuses on coordinated planning

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HANCOCK COUNTY — You’re only as good as your preparation, and that’s paramount when it comes to getting ready for a countywide emergency, officials say.

That’s the message coming from a recent meeting among officials from the Hancock County Homeland Security department — formerly the Emergency Management Agency — and the Community Organizations Active in Disasters.

The officials have started meeting to plan out responses for emergencies rather than work independently. The goal is for the two groups to refocus their training and activities to work more closely.

Joseph R. Fitzgerald, deputy director of Hancock County Homeland Security, is leading the way at the meetings.

He noted the agency changed its name to bring it in line with the Indiana Department of Homeland Security so it can better reflect the broader scope of state agency’s involvement.

“Unfortunately, as the landscape of potential dangers continues to expand, we will adapt to those changes,” Fitzgerald said. “Cyber security is one of the new areas we have been tasked with.”

During the recent meeting, Fitzgerald unveiled the 2022 focus of the training and direction for their volunteer members. The county homeland security department has been meeting regularly with multiple county agencies over the last year to help efforts be better organized, Fitzgerald said.

He noted the merger of the homeland security department and COAD will enhance COAD’s presence. The groups include a ham radio operators club; eight members belong to the Community Emergency Response Team, better know as CERT; and 20 other community volunteers represented the community.

Jim Peters, co-chair of the COAD board, said the most notable thing emerging from the discussion is the importance of thorough and accurate emergency planning.

“The planning is directly related to how many volunteer hours are available to commit to planning,” Peters said.

It’s why it’s important to have many volunteers who can be counted on should a disaster strike, he said.

“Having said that, the training and exercises will be more beneficial to our planning with the two groups working together,” said Peters, whose COAD group’s most visible activity lately is opening warming centers for those without heat.

Fitzgerald noted one thing community members can do is to make sure each family has a 72-hour readiness emergency packet on hand. The kit should include nonperishable snacks, food, water and needed daily medications.

Meetings between the homeland security department and COAD volunteers will consist of training appropriate to the group’s roles during a disaster. The gatherings will be held the first Thursday of each month at 7 p.m. at the Emergency Operations Center at 640 S. Franklin St., Greenfield.

Peters said it’s a good time for new people to get involved as they will be starting the training with response fundamentals in February. Anyone interested may contact Peters at 317-372-2304 or the homeland security department at 317-477-1188.

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