Shortly before the end of 2020, the Jackson County EMA received a grant for $37,596 technology grant.

According to  EMA Director Paul Smith, the department hopes to use the money to upgrade their ability to respond to search and rescue operations in remote areas of Jackson County.

“Any time that we can provide local resources to our responders, that helps everyone in the county,” said Smith.

It will also be used for upgrades to the equipment used in the EMA office, housed on the bottom floor of the Jackson County Courthouse, to form a more cohesive unit with the recent mobile command center the department acquired as part of a separate grant.

The grant was awarded to the EMA by the Tides Foundation and allows the agency a large amount of leeway in choosing how they want to spend the money to achieve their mission.

“Most of the time in the past we have relied on mutual aid resources. COVID has taught us that we need to be able to stand on our own feet for a while,” said Smith adding that the pandemic has shown they need to be more self-reliant. “It’s kind of like if your house is on fire ordinarily you depend on your neighbor, but what happens if your neighbor’s house is on fire too? We’ve got 66 neighbors whose houses are also on fire.”

Smith added that the technology will not only make Jackson County citizens and tourists safer but will also be able to make the county’s emergency responders safer.

The EMA director also noted that the equipment, such as spot GPS trackers, FLIR and another drone with upgraded camera equipment to be more successful in search and rescue operations.

In certain areas of Jackson County, such as the Walls of Jericho, responders can often lose their ability to communicate with the main emergency response and dispatch. These technology upgrades will assist them as well as allow for the EMA to better keep track of their position in case of emergency.

Smith hopes that the EMA can invest in storage and increase their disaster supplies in the future. To respond to extend the department’s ability to respond to disasters, but also noted that this could cause unforeseen issues.

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