(Lawrenceville, Georgia) The Office of Emergency Management (OEM) was recently recognized by the National Association of Counties with 2 achievement awards in Emergency Management and Response. The Board of Commissioners recognized the unit and other county departments in their meeting last week. Chief Ayers, Greg Swanson (Director of OEM), and staff were in attendance for the recognition.
The National Association of Counties (NACo) was founded in 1935 and unites America’s 3,069 county governments. The Achievement Awards Program run by the National Association of Counties recognizes innovative county government initiatives in 21 different categories. Approximately 110 counties and organizations won awards in 2016. Seventeen (17) awards were given in the Category of Emergency Management & Response. The Gwinnett County Office of Emergency Management was the recipient of 2 Achievement Awards in 2016. Those awards are Emergency Operations Center Management Team and Wireless Emergency Alerts. Since 2007 only 6 Awards for Emergency Management and Response have been awarded to a Georgia County. This includes the 2 awards Gwinnett County received this year.
Here are some details about the awards:
Emergency Operations Center Management Team
Being prepared for every type of emergency or disaster that could impact a county of 437 square miles and a population approaching a million is truly a daunting task. Success depends on being creative with limited resources. That’s exactly what the Gwinnett County (GA) Office of Emergency Management (OEM) has done by forming an Emergency Operations Center (EOC) Management Team. The Emergency Operations Center is a central location where public safety, emergency response, and support agencies coordinate planning, preparedness, and response activities. Representatives of more than 50 organizations report to the EOC during times of crisis. Managing and coordinating a large-scale response over an extended time is a challenge that all local governments face across the country. We developed and trained a management team of County employees to staff and operate the Emergency Operations Center during extended emergencies. This innovative method fills gaps in existing services and has proven tremendously successful. The Team includes enough employees to run EOC operations 24/7 for an extended period of time.
Wireless Emergency Alerts
Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) can save lives during an emergency and Gwinnett County was one of the first counties in Georgia to use the technology. This new service helps fill a gap in notifying residents and visitors of threats to their safety. Now, geo-targeted alerts sent to all enabled cell phones in the target area by the County’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM) can warn of fires, hazardous materials incidents, local emergencies, shelter-in-place warnings, and 911 service outage emergencies. Alerts include the time and type of alert and any action that should be taken. They do not duplicate AMBER alerts or extreme weather messages from the National Weather Service and alert messages do not disrupt text, calls, or data sessions that are in progress. WEA alerts have a unique audible signal and vibration cadence so everyone, including those with disabilities, will be aware of the text-like message coming in. Our implementation of WEA went far beyond compliance with federal requirements. Specific milestones included: revisions to the Countywide Emergency Operations Plan, legal agreements with FEMA, software acquisition, installation, testing, and certification, completion of federally mandated training for OEM staff, training for county and municipal public safety departments, and a public education campaign.
Director Greg Swanson is honored and pleased at the amount of progress OEM has achieved. These recognitions are justification that the Office of Emergency Management is proving to be a progressive force in dealing with crisis in Gwinnett County and beyond.