Georgia County Government - January/February 2013 - (Page 24)

County Government Emergency Management Agencies: Prepared Today for Tomorrow’s Disaster By Laura A. Hernandez J uly 1994: Tropical Storm Alberto stalls over western Georgia, dropping torrential rains across a wide area. The Flint, Ocmulgee and Chattahoochee rivers rise to record-high levels, triggering the worst flooding in Georgia history. Though Alberto never actually gains hur- single expert in this position or an entire skilled staff, local leaders’ cooperation with emergency management efforts is critical. Always remember the lesson from Georgia’s disaster history: You can never be too ready. Your county is on danger’s hit list. ricane status, by the time the storm and the flooding are over, more than 40,000 people have been evacuated and 55 Georgia counties are deemed disaster areas. September 2009: Heavy rains drench the southeastern United States, inundating north Georgia and metro Atlanta. The water brings devastation estimated at a half-billion dollars with over 20,000 homes, businesses and public buildings suffering major damage. Federal disaster declarations are issued across 23 counties. April 2011: During the most active tornado month in U.S. history, 13 tornadoes rake across middle and north Georgia in a two-day period. When an EF4 tornado touches down in Catoosa County it leaves an estimated 700 buildings damaged or destroyed, eight citizens dead and over 30 injured. Not If, but When Disaster Strikes It may not be something county officials want to think about, but a disaster— whether natural, like a major storm, or man-made, such as an act of terrorism— can pose a significant hazard to business as usual. Because of their threat to life and property and likelihood of leaving material and economic destruction in their wake, such events deserve concern 24 GEORGIA COUNTY GOVERNMENT and attention well in advance of their arrival. Recognizing this, many counties in Georgia have made emergency management programs a priority, implementing best practices to enhance their preparedness, response and recovery efforts. Across Georgia, county governments recognize that their communities depend upon them when circumstances become dire, expecting immediate and authoritative emergency response. They also realize that after the threat has passed, citizens will rely on their local government to guide the return to normalcy. To best carry out these responsibilities, local leaders must establish a strong commitment to effective emergency management long before disaster strikes. This activity requires forethought and coordination. Efforts must be directed toward reducing potential threats, planning and preparing for dangers and responding to and recovering from actual emergencies. The county emergency management function is best suited to focus upon these actions. Whether a county supports a Understanding the Emergency Management Function The activities of planning and preparing for emergencies and responding when they occur are widely perceived to be a government duty, and emergency management agencies—known as EMAs—can be found in government from the local to the federal level. The primary responsibility of an EMA is to reduce the impact of major disasters, both natural and man-made. Georgia’s Emergency Management Act of 1981 sets forth guidelines for the organization and administration of Georgia’s EMAs. The law states that only if a county possesses a local organization for emergency management will it be eligible to receive state funding for disaster relief assistance. Further, the Emergency Management Act authorizes the appointment of local agency directors and sets forth requirements for such directors and their duties. All 159 Georgia counties have emergency management functions in place. Across the state, emergency management operations are found in a variety of forms in the government structure. Larger counties often have an EMA with a full-time director and staff. In smaller counties, the EMA function is less likely

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Georgia County Government - January/February 2013

President's Message
Director's Desk
Chatham County: Cultivating Opportunities to Grow Investments
2013 ACCG Annual Conference Preview
Eight Annual Georgia County Excellence Awards
County Government : Emergency Management Agencies: Prepared Today for Tomorrow's Disaster
Federal Update: The Fiscal Cliff: What's in the Final Deal and When's the Next One Coming?
Counties & the Law: Avoiding First Amendment Liability in the Employee Discipline
System for Taxing Motor Vehicles to Change March 1
News & Notes
Index of Advertisers

Georgia County Government - January/February 2013