Howard County EMA making improvements to emergency operations center

KOKOMO, Ind. - County officials, community leaders and emergency management volunteers will soon have updated technology when handling or monitoring natural disasters.

The Howard County EMA office recently won a grant to make upgrades to its emergency operations center which should be in place by early fall.

Howard County EMA director Janice Hart said the $27,000 came from the Indiana Department of Homeland Security's Emergency Management Performance Grant.

“I just felt our emergency operations center needed to be more modernized, especially with information technology," said Hart. "We lack that here."

The funds will allow the office to purchase new laptops, monitors, a SMART Board, white boards, and furniture for the operations center, replacing some equipment that has been there since the office moved into its E. Mulberry St. location in the mid-1980s.

“They do a great job stretching their dollars and taking care of the equipment they have because they know at any given moment they could be in a situation where something significant is going on in our community," said Howard County Commissioner Paul Wyman, a Republican.

Once the equipment is in place, Hart said the emergency operations center will serve as the source of information going out to first responders and residents when the next disaster is on the horizon.

“When an emergency happens here in Howard County, whether it be the tornadoes, flooding or whatever, the decision makers are here in our emergency operations center and everybody will be able to see on a board where the shelters are, the number of people there, roads that are closed, resources that are being utilized," said Hart, who has been in the EMA director's chair for a little more than three and a half years.

Hart said the new equipment has been ordered with grant money only and the department has not used county money for the upgrades.

“It’s just one year ago our community was in that situation where we had a natural disaster hit us," Wyman said. "So many different organizations came together at that moment to start to rebuild our community and to get us back on our footing and EMA was one of those organizations. So for them to get technology like this and stay up to speed, and be ready to go at a moment’s notice, last year is a great example to why that’s so important.”

According to the National Weather Service, the county has had 12 tornadoes touch down since 2000, with five of them hitting on August 24, 2016.

It also had an earthquake on December 30, 2010. Hart said the county had two significant floods in the last 17 years, one this past July and the other on the Fourth of July of 2003. A snow storm also put the county under a state of emergency in January of 2014.