Supervisors trained for disaster response

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

A swift response to disaster requires organization and responsible people working in a pre-established chain of command, so leaders from across Marshall County have volunteered to serve when needed.

The National Incident Management System (NIMS) is affiliated with the Department of Homeland Security and, while NIMS provides a chain of command to deal with a hijacked airplane, it's also ready for the spring tornado season.

The volunteers' willingness and certification after training through the Marshall County Emergency Management Agency were recognized on Friday morning when the volunteers gathered at the county's Hardison Annex office building.

"This is all about preparedness in case of an emergency," County Mayor Joe Boyd Liggett said after Marshall County Emergency Management Agency Director Bob Hopkins awarded certificates to the volunteers.

They are supervisors in their fields and that expertise is acknowledged when they're assigned areas of responsibility.

For example, Ralph Grossheim is this region's dental director for the Tennessee Department of Health.

"They made me the safety officer," Grossheim said. "I'm not dealing directly with medical issues, but I would deal with helping to identify different situations and know how to deal with them."

Hopkins explained that's Grossheim's role in the chain of command.

The volunteers were taught about NIMS so that they could "all understand what our position is in whatever the situation is; in other words, who we can look to for supervision and aid," Hopkins said.

"It all comes out of basic incident command structures," he said using a phrase familiar to firefighters who, in dangerous situations, must work as a team to accomplish a job without putting themselves in danger.

NIMS establishes a hierarchy that applies to various situations.

"I'm the officer in charge of letting people know what's going on," Liggett said of his role that includes public announcements.

Others trained in the NIMS process would focus on their area of expertise, Liggett said, explaining that preordained responsibilities help the community "pull together as a team with each having separate duties" during an emergency.

"It taught me," Marshall County Emergency Medical Sevices Director James Whorley said, "how to better utilize our resources."

NIMS classmate Sarah Martin said, "The cooperation between agencies is really important."