Butler County EMA helping with 1,000-plus missions in Florida for hurricane relief

The Butler County Emergency Management Agency continued a presence in Florida on Tuesday to help coordinate rescue efforts in preparation for Hurricane Dorian.

EMA Director Matt Haverkos said 13 members of the Incident Management Team were in the State Emergency Operations Center in Tallahassee, Florida, coordinating resources as the state braced for the hurricane.

“Our team is actively working … every day in the emergency operations center, they’re in there now, creating missions, there’s like 1,100 missions in the system the last time I checked, in Florida,” Haverkos said on Tuesday.

“So our guys are sifting through those 1,100 missions and creating work orders and then going out and spotting out the locations and getting people in place.”

Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones, who wants to take over EMA operations for the county, contacted the state EMA late last week and notified officials he has resources that can help the effort as well. His swift water rescue team has not been deployed.

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“At this point in time we have not been asked, we submitted our mission ready package to the state,” Chief Deputy Anthony Dwyer said. “There was a request that went out for some swift water rescue teams and we do have a team that’s available.”

Dwyer said the location that needs help sends out requests for specific resources across the country. Each state emergency management agency then works with the county EMAs to set up missions.

“I’m assuming they found other teams maybe closer by,” Dwyer said.

The IMT team departed Saturday morning for Florida on a 16-day mission. Florida will reimburse the county an estimated $300,000 if the mission goes as planned, according to Haverkos.

The path of the storm has been unpredictable, but Haverkos said as of Tuesday afternoon the team’s mission had not changed. They were waiting Tuesday to see how the storm progressed. It was downgraded to a Category 2.

Jones has been trying to overtake EMA for over a decade and renewed his pitch to the county commissioners in July. Dwyer said there have been multiple occasions,most recently the Dayton tornado disaster, when the sheriff has taken action on offers to assist outside agencies.

“We’ve rendered assistance to other locales outside Ohio on multiple occasions for disasters and tragedies that have occurred outside the official function of the emergency management here in Butler County,” Dwyer said.

“At times, this goes back over history, there were delays and we went direct drive to those that needed help. That’s occurred with previous EMA directors. And then other times requests have come in independent.”

What is different this time is Dwyer said Haverkos sent him the email from the state EMA looking for water rescue teams. The EMA does not have an independent water rescue team like it does for Hazmat and other specialized emergency response teams, but the sheriff does, according to Haverkos.

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Jones made his first takeover offer in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina pummeled the south. He said he contact former EMA director Bill Turner who said the state said not to send people or supplies just money. At the time he said he was so “disgusted” he “circumvented the huge, inadequate bureaucratic organization” and sent a crew of eight deputies and five tractor-trailers loaded with donated emergency supplies — including drinking water — to the deep South.

Until recently the commissioners couldn’t consider the takeover because it was prohibited by state law. The takeover is legal now that State Sen. Bill Coley, R-Liberty Twp., inserted a provision in the transportation bill that allows the takeover.

The EMA board is holding a special meeting Tuesday for an impact briefing on the sheriff’s proposal, and it will then give a presentation to the commissioners.

Commissioner T.C. Rogers said he wants to hear from all sides.

“The underlying thing is you have a component of cost and then you also have a component of, is the service going to be the same after this,” he said. “I know all parties would do quality work beyond expenctations, but I just want to be assured that there’ll be continued coordination.”

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