Tuesday, September 10, 2013
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Logan County hosts new resource location service for emergency managers

EMCOM, Part 1

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[September 10, 2013]  A newly developed emergency resource location system offering statewide service is operating right here from Logan County. EMCOM has been designed to assist emergency managers when local resources are insufficient or quickly exhausted during a large-scale or ongoing incident.

The EMCOM system was developed here and is operating out of the Logan County Dispatch Center. The service locates, acquisitions and tracks locally owned resources located around the state.

Dan Fulscher, Logan County's Emergency Management Agency director, explained why and how EMCOM was created, its progression, as well as its future, which is of greater importance.

In short, EMCOM is a service that allows emergency managers statewide to expeditiously locate and access equipment that is owned by agencies and departments all across, up and down Illinois. With one call, a manager has someone who will find what is needed, order it, oversee delivery and then also see its return to the owner.

The someone who would manage the order would be Bucky Washam, EMCOM director. As a retired fire chief, Washam understands the timely need of services and equipment. Washam's salary is paid by a state grant.

Fulscher explained: "This is a service that will meet a need for those who are facing urgent circumstances that require additional resources." He said emergency managers often find themselves saying, "I know they are out there, but how do I get hold of it?"

Fulscher and Washam have worked with the Illinois Emergency Services Management Association for a couple of years to set up the EMCOM program. They also worked with Mark Mann, supervisor of Logan County's 911 Dispatch, in coordinating the call system.

The project was complex and has had several phases. The first step was to show state officials the need and what could be done.

Why is EMCOM needed?

The events of Sept 11, 2001, shook our country into full awareness of global terrorism and the need to be prepared. At the federal level, the Department of Homeland Security was born, and additional disaster response funds began sifting down to the states.

Each state manages its own funds used for training and equipment. In Illinois, a special task force was formed. The Illinois Terrorism Task Force oversees federal funds to equip and train response teams. ITTF funds have been delegated to various local agencies throughout the state, and those resources are available for all disasters.

In its biggest year, $110 million in federal funding was budgeted to the task force. As scheduled, those funds began to be cut back a few years ago. This year, the ITTF budget was down to $11.4 million. Next year, another 25 to 30 percent cut is expected.

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Fulscher said that as equipment budgets dwindle in the next 10 years, people are still going to replace stuff. "But what needs to happen is to get the haves to share with the have-nots," he said.

"There have been a lot of resources acquired in the past two decades that are strung out all over the state," Fulscher said.

It is quickly becoming more important to develop a comprehensive system to track sharable resources.

EMCOM uses Logan County's state-of-the-art emergency communications system. It has a database of local emergency resources available for use statewide.

Resource requests that EMCOM can currently facilitate include the use of an Incident Management Team, Emergency Management Assistance Team or for generators.

An Incident Management Team provides personnel such as a police chief, fire chief or sheriff who can assist with forward command post operations in the field. They would help with on-scene management as needed, such as traffic direction or to look for the bad guy.

An Emergency Management Assistance Team would supply people who could assist with decision-making processes. They would join authorities in the local emergency operations center.

Generators cached in storage throughout Illinois are made available through the Illinois Emergency Services Management Association.

"The state has put millions of dollars in equipment and training. Up to now there has not been a single, easy-to-use tracking system for where all of those resources are located," Fulscher said.

How does this important system work? It begins with a call ...

Read more in an upcoming Part 2 on this vital new comprehensive state resource developed right here in Logan County by innovative leaders in emergency preparedness and response.


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