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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

OEM Coordinators look out for the county

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The only way to explain how Sharp County OEM Coordinator Gene Moore and his assistant Dan Melbourne's first year on the job has gone, is to say they walked before they crawled.

In a year's time, these two men have handled more natural disasters than their predecessor, Pete Riley, did in 26 years.

An OEM Coordinator is responsible for assessing the situation during a natural disaster and planning a course of action. Generally, when a new person takes the position they have time to take the required training before they ever have to respond to a disaster.

Moore and Melbourne began their appointment in January 2008 and not even a month later the Feb. 5 tornado ripped through Sharp County. "We knew what we had to do," Melbourne said. "We had a lot of good help."

Moore said the first thing they do anytime a disaster strikes is set up a command center and assess the situation. Then, the safety of the people becomes the number one priority.

Melbourne said, with the help of several other agencies and volunteers, a door to door check is performed. This also helps them determine the needs of those affected by the disaster. When necessary, shelters and food banks are set up as quickly as possible.

After the tornado, the two men thought they might get the chance to take their classes as things slowed down, but then the floods of March came. The floods damaged many people's homes as well as several businesses.

Then the area endured the wrath of Hurricane Ike. The winds were so strong they uprooted trees and tore shingles from the roofs of many homes. That, too, was declared a natural disaster.

Things slowed down for a while, then at the first of the year, the ice storm hit making it the fourth natural disaster declared in Sharp County in a year's time.

Although the men got a short break before the ice storm, the paperwork never stopped. FEMA requires things done a certain way and Melbourne is the one who generally does all of the paperwork, while Moore handles the "people" side of things.

They explained their situation as a unique one, because Melbourne has been Moore's boss on the road department for several years and now Moore is his boss on the OEM side of things, so they work well together.

While Moore and Melbournes' homes were hit by the February tornado, they never stopped doing what they were hired to do -- taking care of the county when disaster strikes. Throughout their first year, they proved over and over again, that they were right for the job.

They both joke that the only thing left to happen is an earthquake.

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