Our View: Dialing in the correct steps
Type in “Moffat County emergency management coordinator” into an Internet search engine, and at the top of that list is a link to a Moffat County Sheriff’s Office Web page.
On that page, Larry Dalton is listed as the county’s emergency management coordinator.
It also lists a phone number to call him.
Dial the number and you will not get Dalton. He has not been the county’s emergency management coordinator, a federally funded and required position, since November 2007.
Nor will you get the person who replaced him.
Furthermore, the position isn’t under the sheriff’s purview anymore.
No, it’s not quite clear who has been filling this role the past couple of months.
Moffat County Commission board members are supposed to, but during the recent storm that stranded an estimated 500 people between Craig and Steamboat Springs – along with numerous other issues in Moffat County – the buck seemed to stop with Moffat County Sheriff Tim Jantz.
Jantz and other Moffat County staff deserve a lot of credit and they did an outstanding job, but the point of the matter is this: It is not his job.
If the situation had been worse in Moffat County, the sheriff would have other responsibilities, other issues he would need to address.
And if the case had been worse and emergency providers had needed additional resources, who would have set it up?
It’s easy to say in hindsight it might have been this person or that person, but during the storm, it was clear that people were unclear as to who was the acting emergency management coordinator and who was the person to answer questions.
And when that person is not in place, what happens?
If the storm is an example, it would mean you would have people calling around the county, trying to find answers from various public officials.
Or worse yet, the 911 lines would be tied up, which was the case during the storm, as people tried to find out simple information, such as road conditions.
Part of this latter problem is an education issue for the public, an issue one would hope would be effectively carried out by an emergency management coordinator.
The former is an accountability issue, as in who is going to take responsibility, work as a liaison among different emergency providers, find resources and be the mouthpiece to the public.
That people were using 911 as the information line is clearly a failure of educating the public, and no one was in place to coordinate issues as they arose.
In short, the emergency management coordinator is an important position, one that should not still be vacant.
The Moffat County Commission has had some meetings to address it, and there are some plans in place, Commissioner Tom Gray said.
They have a tentative plan to put a six-month contract in place with a local representative to man the position. If that plan goes through, the commissioners’ blueprint is to revaluate that contract and the job being done via regular updates and a four-month review. With that information, they can go from there.
This is a good plan.
It provides regionalism, someone who will be able to support the other providers as well as be a spokesperson to the public.
These steps need to be taken, and, in the editorial board’s opinion, continued proactive strides need to be taken in the future to avoid any such uncertainty that may have happened in the past.
Here are a few suggestions to that end:
• See if you can have a back-up contract with another emergency management coordinator, such as the person in Routt County. Offer the same in return, so if an employee or contract issue were to arise in either county, both counties would be covered.
• Update the Web site with relevant information in case of an emergency and get Dalton’s name off that page.
• Create a yearly media campaign to inform the public on how to handle emergency situations, so people know who and where to call. The Craig Daily Press can help.
From talking to Gray, the Commission seems to be headed in the right direction at this point.
We’re not there yet, but the editorial board encourages the Commission to keep up with the job.
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