Staggs chosen for job in EMA office

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

By Karen Hall


Incoming Emergency Management Agency Director Steve Callahan has hired his administrative assistant.

She will be Valerie Staggs, who has experience as a police officer, fire fighter, and office manager.

Callahan announced his choice to members of the EMA committee Thursday evening.

"I think her skills will be a perfect fit," he said.

Callahan reported there were 26 applicants, but few of them had any experience with emergency services. He showed committee members Staggs' application, which was as thick as those of the next four applicants stacked together.

Staggs will start on July 1, and longtime EMA employee Elizabeth Webster has agreed to stay on until July 11 to help her find her way around the office.

A reception is planned on Thursday, June 26, from 2 to 4 p.m. at the EMA office, to celebrate the retirements of Webster, EMA Director Bob Hopkins, and Marijo Bean.

Hopkins will be staying on in a part-time position to help Callahan for the first year, and therefore needs to keep his cell phone and radio, so committee members decided to buy a phone and radio for Callahan as well.

He also needs a "safe, reliable, response-capable vehicle." Hopkins' 2001 Crown Vic car, which he has been driving to emergencies for years, is in bad shape, and doesn't have four-wheel drive.

"We can't afford to have a rescue mission turn into a recovery mission because we can't get the equipment there soon enough," Callahan exclaimed.

Fortunately, the county's rural fire departments have had a good year, money-wise, and there is enough left in the rural fire protection line of the EMA budget to buy a 4WD Chevy Tahoe at the state contract price.

"We're very fortunate to have that surplus this year," said committee chairman Mike Waggoner, and committee members unanimously agreed to recommend buying the new truck.

Callahan talked about the different seminars and trainings he had attended since being named to succeed Hopkins.

He also talked about becoming a National Weather Service StormReady county, like the surrounding counties.

According to the website, to be officially StormReady, a community must:

* Establish a 24-hour warning point and emergency operations center

* Have more than one way to receive severe weather warnings and forecasts and to alert the public

* Create a system that monitors weather conditions locally

* Promote the importance of public readiness through community seminars

* Develop a formal hazardous weather plan, which includes training severe weather spotters and holding emergency exercises

"There's not a lot of cost involved," said Callahan. "It's mainly elbow grease, and not a lot of money. The big thing is, it would help with flood insurance (costs)."

One warning system is already in place: CodeRED, which delivers weather warnings by voicemail, text message, and email to people who have signed up for it.

"It's the greatest thing to warn the public," exclaimed Hopkins. "It's not just weather, but other events as well."

The E911 Board pays for CodeRED, with the fee based on the county's population. (The board's money comes from the 911 fees charged on every landline and cell phone bill.)

If you have not already signed up for CodeRED, you can do so by visiting where a link to register is on the first page.