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New guidelines for county EMA directors

By By MARY-ALLISON LANCASTER – Managing editor
County EMA directors not in compliance with the new guidelines set by the State EMA earlier this year could lose federal funding.
According to Escambia County EMA Director David Jennings, when he first applied for the position, "there was no criteria."
Jennings said that State EMA Director Bruce Baughman developed the guidelines in an effort to set a minimum standard for all directors. EMA directors hired prior to May 1, 2005 must complete online courses in 36 months, Jennings said.
According to guidelines set forth by the State EMA, , the new standards require directors to complete 21 independent study classes conducted online, have at least two years of college education and three years of EMA-related work.
Jennings said that he's well on his way to meeting the criteria.
The local EMA director has a degree in political science from Auburn University, has handled several natural disasters, including one major hurricane, and so far he has completed 14 of the 21 required courses. He said he hopes to finish by the end of the year.
The online courses take three to four hours to complete. Much like a regular class, a final exam must be administered before a certificate of authorization is issued. When all 21 certificates are issued, Jennings said that he will photocopy the originals and send them to the state training officer for proof of authenticity.
Some of the courses in which Jennings has successfully completed include, the EOC's role in community preparedness, response and recovery activities, decision making and problem solving, basic skills in effective communication and an emergency planning course among others.
County EMA directors who do not meet requirements in the allotted time frame could cause federal funding to be cut by about 20 or 30 percent. However, in Jennings' case, federal funding should remain in tact for Escambia County.
While Jennings said he thinks the classes are a good thing and "probably something long overdue," he questions whether they help in the long haul.