This week, the Indiana Department of Homeland Security (IDHS) announced that regional commanders are in place to lead four out of the 10 Homeland Security emergency response task forces. Here's how this benefits Hoosiers.
The District Response Task Forces are being formed to support local emergency management agencies as all-hazards emergency response groups. They will be staffed with local firefighters, emergency medical services personnel, emergency managers, law enforcement personnel and other local emergency response professionals.
Members of each task force will be able to mobilize at the request of any county within the district, and if needed, IDHS could deploy them to assist communities in any region of the state. The accompanying map indicates the counties each task force serves primarily, but together, they will form a statewide network of mutual emergency support.
Under the guidance of IDHS, the district concept streamlines the mutual aid process enabling the counties in each district to directly support each other, and in turn, the districts to support each other as well. It builds relationships among emergency responders and increases their knowledge of available resources and capabilities which promotes resource sharing.
The ten task forces are now in different stages of development, but all are expected to be fully formed and operational by spring of 2012.
The commanders will be responsible for overseeing daily administrative operations, and recruiting resources to establish and expand the capabilities of the task force they oversee.
Once fully formed, the commanders will also be expected to respond to mutual support requests within their district, and may also be required to oversee emergency response operations if support is required beyond their own district.
The commanders have voluntarily assumed these duties as an extension of their current roles as firefighters, medical services personnel, law enforcement, emergency response planners, and other public service personnel, and I am looking forward to working with these highly qualified new commanders. Commanders also have the option to appoint one, or more, deputy commanders to assist them.
District 1: Commander Russell Shirley has a distinguished background in law enforcement with the city of Valparaiso, and has served on numerous safety and prevention committees to help improve his community.
It is expected that Commander Shirley will appoint a deputy soon.
District 4: Commander Richard Doyle served his country in the United States Marine Corps before becoming a member of the Lafayette Fire Department and founding the Tippecanoe County Fire Investigation Task Force and the Fire Prevention Show, as well as leading the Lafayette Fire Department Water Rescue Team.
Deputy Commander Mike Blann is the Assistant Chief of Special Operations with the Lafayette Fire Department.
Deputy Commander Jeff Houston is the Emergency Medical Services Coordinator for Tippecanoe County.
District 6: Commander Shannon Henry's background in emergency medical service, fire fighting, and law enforcement has given him a great deal of experience as well as various awards, such as the Albany Police Officer of the Year in 1994 and Albany Firefighter of the year in 1996 and 1999.
Deputy Commander Kevin Anderson is the Chief Deputy of the Albany Police Department in Delaware County.
Deputy Commander Jason Rogers is the Delaware County Emergency Management Agency Director.
District 7: Commander Melissa Buell began her career as a nurse in Indianapolis and, later, Vermillion County before becoming the Public Health Preparedness Coordinator for the Vermillion County Health Department as well as a district administrator for IDHS.
Deputy Commander Chris Lunsford is the Director for the Owen County Ambulance Service.
IDHS plans to consider the remaining six commander nominees well before the end of the year.
The confirmation of the District Response Task Force Commanders, serves as the capstone achievement in the structuralizing of a multi-faceted mutual aid concept that IDHS has been developing since 2005.
The crux of mutual aid agreements is resource sharing. When equipment and personnel in every region can be made available to the entire state, we can have a much stronger response than if each county must stand on its own. The District Response Task Force network will help ensure that when disaster strikes, we will be ready to act as a team to support and collaborate with local, state and federal partners to meet the needs of Hoosiers.
Joe Wainscott is the IDHS Executive Director.