EMA briefs county commissioners on disaster authority

By D. Anthony Botkin - [email protected]

The Delaware County Board of Commissioners was informed on Thursday of its authority in wake of a disaster in Delaware County.

Sean Miller, Delaware County of Homeland Security and Emergency Management director, outlined the major categories to be the declaration of a local disaster, conducting shelter operations, performing mass feedings, resource control, and enacting a curfew.

“One of the most common authorities that the board of commissioners is looked at to implement … is declaring a local disaster,” he told the board. “Or having a local declaration in place.”

Miller said the declaration is a statement to the State of Ohio that local resources have been exhausted. He said the last big natural disaster in Delaware County was Hurricane Ike, which hit the county in September 2008.

“It was the last time we had a presidential declaration,” he said. “It was the last time we received federal aid as part of a disaster.”

Miller added the declaration is a statement that local resources are overwhelmed, and it’s the first step in freeing up additional resources from the state and federal governments.

“It’s also a demonstration to the public that the county takes whatever the incident is very seriously,” he said. “It’s a statement of clear and present danger.”

Miller said the declaration also memorializes the disaster and incident.

“One of the things to keep in mind is once the county declares a disaster, the emergency management would give that to the State of Ohio Emergency Management and then a governor’s declaration could be made,” he said. “If it is severe enough, there might be a presidential declaration as well, freeing up federal resources.”

Moving to shelter operations, Miller said it is usually coordinated by emergency management, but the Red Cross is the operational lead. However, he said, it is “permissible” for the board to provide support to the operation.

“I think that would be a very extreme case,” he said. “As long as I’ve been with Delaware County, the Red Cross has been able to take this ball and run with it without any request going to the commissioners for additional financial support.”

Miller said there was an occasion in which the Delaware County EMA worked with the Red Cross following a power outage to an apartment complex.

“They were phenomenal partners,” he said. ‘The Red Cross reached out to me during one of the recent snowstorms and said if we needed a shelter, they stood ready to provide that function.”

However, Miller said the board could be asked for support in a more extreme or longer-lasting disaster.

On the area of mass feeding, Miller said the last time it was done was also during Hurricane Ike in 2008, but there was no request to the board for support at that time.

“It was provided by a private nonprofit such as the Salvation Army,” he said.

Looking at the category of resource control, Miller said if such a request became necessary, emergency management would coordinate the request, working through the county administrator who would brief the board.

As for enacting a curfew, Miller said if it became necessary, it would be coordinated with local law enforcement.

“If operational issues on scene became evident, we would brief the county administrator as well as the board of commissioners on the request,” he said.

Miller added the board’s authority is in line with its duty to keep the public safe, and all the details are outlined in the Delaware County Emergency Plan.

“Hopefully, we’ll never have to use it,” said Commissioner Gary Merrell.


By D. Anthony Botkin

[email protected]

Contact D. Anthony Botkin at 740-413-0902. Follow him on Twitter @dabotkin.

Contact D. Anthony Botkin at 740-413-0902. Follow him on Twitter @dabotkin.