EMA seeks direction on assistance during county fires | Local News

MONTICELLO – Piatt County Emergency Management Agency officials say they are willing to help out county fire departments during fires, but are looking for direction on how much help and when.

EMA director Rob Bross told the EMA Commmittee he has been asked twice recently to assist fire departments at the scene of fires to supply water and in one instance, food.

One was a structure fire in Hammond and the other was the shed fire on the DeLand-Monticello blacktop on July 11.

“The previous director (Mike Holmes) would supply food on occasion and water,” Bross said. “I don’t mind getting water, but when it gets to food, I need some direction.”

There is no line item in the current fiscal year budget for such expenses. He purchased water with his own credit card to obtain water from County Market in the case of the July 11 fire and will be reimbursed by the county. Subway sandwiches were ordered during that fire and Bross believes a Monticello police officer may have paid for that out of his own pocket.

Food is often provided by the Red Cross in cases where firefighters are at the scene of one fire for a length of time. But that has some drawbacks, Bross said.

“I have to call the Red Cross Center in Illinois, which is apparently a state-wide contact number. Then they have to call the regional office in Decatur and even with a best-case scenario, it is an hour or an hour-and-a-half before they get here, at least.”

Also, the Red Cross is also in charge of helping the fire victims out, so their first priority may involve getting housing and living items for anyone who was displaced because of a fire.

“Also, Red Cross is a volunteer organization and they are short on volunteers and if you get a call at 6 or 7 or later at night, sometimes they may not pick up,” he added. “I have always been very impressed with the Red Cross, but I would like to make sure everyone gets whatever they need.”

Bross suggested getting four or five cases of water to have on hand, but Piatt County Board Chairman Ray Spencer wondered if that was the responsibility of the EMA office.

“I’m not trying to be a Scrooge, and it was fine to provide the water, but I would be interested in discussing this further,” he said.

Bross said some of the requests come from firefighters on scene, but he would like the requests to come only from the incident commanders at the scene.

“It should be the exception when we provide water, and not the norm,” he said.

Bross is continuing his goal of clearing out surplus property at the EMA office. The property includes old computers, printers, radios, pagers and other items. He is contacting other county departments to see what they can use and plans on giving the pagers and radios to county fire departments who can use them.

Other things will be destroyed.

“We are trying to get the EMA office into shape,” he said. “We will be able to use it as an Emergency Operations Center so that we still have a command center in case for some reason, we can’t use the sheriff’s department.”

The next committee meeting will be held at the EMA office.

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