This submission is part of a regular series of columns in The Advertiser-Tribune that features county voices. The series allows a direct, unfiltered message straight from county officials to our residents.
Today’s column was submitted by Seneca County Emergency Services Director Ken Majors. The article was printed in the A-T on May 29.
Seneca County Emergency Services overview for COVID-19 Response
Seneca County Emergency Services began monitoring the COVID-19 pandemic in late February and began taking active measures against the viral pandemic in March.
Our initial response was from the Emergency Management perspective. We started receiving guidance from the Ohio EMA regarding the evidence of the disease as it was progressing in other areas in the United States. We began with information gathering and sharing to support a safe local response.
Emergency Management Agency (EMA) Director John Spahr took the lead on information gathering, the proper compliance paperwork and forms required to report our needs to Ohio EMA. This set the stage for receiving personal protective equipment (PPE) from the State Pandemic Stockpile and the Federal Strategic National Stockpile. All of this work qualifies us for federal reimbursement and grant funding to offset the cost of the preparation and response.
Spahr has worked long hours and tirelessly commits most of his days to the receipt of shipments of PPE. He digests information from many sources to create daily situation reports informing our local leadership on the latest numbers, guidance and information related to COVID-19. These reports started on March 19th and continue to this day.
The EMA office also communicates with the Seneca County General Health District to determine the need for deployment of resources and schedules pickups or deliveries to the healthcare institutions in Seneca County. We also are the primary location for donations of PPE and have received many thousands of dollars’ worth from donors across the county. We have distributed most of the donated PPE to healthcare agencies and first responders locally.
EMA remains the focal point for resource management and communication for the management of the day-to-day activities during the pandemic.
Emergency Services also has been busy managing the new 911 system emergency communications infrastructure throughout the county. Our new Next Generation 911 system (NG-911) has been in place for two years now, and we have seen significant improvements in its capabilities. Our 911 coordinator, Mike Klaiss has been keeping up with the reporting requirements of the state’s 911 office.
The Wireless Emergency Notification System is also managed by the Emergency Services Office. The free program provides the office with a means of mass notification to the public. We utilize this system for weather alerts, road closures and emergencies to notify residents of where to look for further information. We encourage users to sign up for this free service by texting “Senecaalerts” to 69310 going online to http://bit.ly/2y8Ltwb
Our communications infrastructure in Seneca County is also managed by the Office of Emergency Services and consists of several radio repeater towers located across the county at strategic locations. These towers allow seamless communication between emergency services personnel, leading to successful and safe operations for law enforcement and fire/EMS agencies. We have two technicians that service our equipment regularly. Klaiss is our deputy EMA director, 911 Coordinator and Senior Communication technician and has many years of experience with many types of communications equipment. Matt Gray is a Firefighter/Paramedic and is also a communication technician with many years of experience. Their ability to keep our equipment functioning at its highest level is a testament to their dedication and level of public service to our community.
Seneca County Emergency Services also encompasses the administration and operations of Seneca County EMS. The EMS service in Seneca County is a unique, collaborative agreement between the county and five joint ambulance districts. The department operates seven advanced life support ambulances from six locations in the county. SCEMS is staffed with volunteer Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs), Advanced EMTs and Paramedics that are compensated by the districts. The county provides all the infrastructure, vehicles, training, medical equipment, medical oversight, quality improvement and compliance structure required to be a state-certified 911 Emergency Medical Service.
EMS aims to provide timely care to victims of sudden and life-threatening injuries or emergencies. Seneca County EMS has excellent medical providers that meet the needs of the community daily. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we are utilizing proper PPE to protect our providers. Our 911 communication technicians ask screening questions to all callers requesting EMS. This allows our providers to prepare for entry into a possibly hazardous environment. We are happy to report that due to the measures instituted early in the pandemic, we have “flattened the curve” and did NOT see a major spike in runs related to COVID-19 or other respiratory viral illness.
Seneca County Emergency Services administrator Dani Gebauer is tasked with the day-to-day administrative duties of Seneca County EMS. During the COVID-19 pandemic her duties have expanded to account for expenditures related to PPE, sanitization equipment and supplies. Her duties also include working on accounting and payment information and documentation.
Seneca County Emergency Services encompasses a wide array of talented folks working hard to keep everyone in Seneca County safe, informed and prepared for anything. Whether it is COVID-19, severe weather, traffic accidents, road closures, or medical emergencies, we are prepared to support our healthcare workers, law enforcement officers, firefighters, EMS personnel and all other agencies that respond to emergencies.