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EMA short-handed but ready for Sandy

October 30, 2012
Morning Journal News

LISBON - The Columbiana County Emergency Management Agency will face the effects of Hurricane Sandy with only an interim director after the new deputy director resigned.

Samantha Works, who was hired in July as deputy director, resigned to return to her job as a case manager/drug and alcohol dependency counselor at the Northeast Ohio Community Alternative Program in Warren, a prison alternative facility for convicted felons.

Works' last day was Oct. 26, leaving only interim EMA Director Edie Dillard to face the heavy rains and high winds the National Weather Service was expecting to arrive last night and continue into this morning.

Dillard, who has worked at the EMA since 2006, said she has taken the usual steps, such as placing all fire departments and other first responders on alert. The local chapter of the Red Cross is also on standby and prepared to open emergency shelters within an hour if needed.

She said they have also made arrangements with the Highlandtown Fire Department to use 10,000 sand bags stored there in case of flooding. The sand bags were purchased several years ago by the EMA, and Highlandtown agreed to let them be stored there.

The National Weather Service predicted the county could receive between two to four inches of rain between 8 p.m. Monday and 4 a.m. today, including wind gusts of up to 60 mph.

Dillard believes widespread power outages pose a greater threat to the county than flooding, but they are prepared for both. She said AEP and FirstEnergy (Ohio Edison), the county's two electricity suppliers, were also on alert for outages throughout Ohio.

"This is just like what we do with any other storm: Listen to the weather service, see how the wind blows and take the normal precautions," she said.

The last major hurricane to strike the county was Hurricane Ike in September 2008, when wind gusts of 60 to 70 mph knocked out power to 38,000 households, many of whom were without electrical service for up to a week afterwards.

Dillard was named interim director by county commissioners following the July resignation of Director EMA Darren Dodson. Commissioners later rejected the list of finalists recommended by the review committee to replace Dodson. The committee consisted of Dillard; a representative from FirstEnergy, which provides the majority of EMA funding; and the local representative from the Ohio EMA assigned to the county.

Two of the three commissioners said the committee was unenthusiastic about the list of applicants, which is why they have held off and are considering readvertising the job. Their decision to do so has been criticized by one of the candidates running for commissioner in the Nov. 6 election.

Commissioner Jim Hoppel said Dillard has provided them with the names of two former applicants she believes would be good candidates for the deputy director position.

"We'll take a look at them," he said.



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