It feels like a long road ahead, but after being appointed by Fulton County Commissioners in June, Gail Karas, the 911 Director for Fulton County Communications, is whipping things back into shape at the Fulton County Emergency Management Agency.
The Fulton County EMA is part of a national network of CERT communities, in a program designed to help neighborhoods prepare for and respond to catastrophic events like tornadoes, floods and other major emergencies.
Working side-by-side with the newly appointed Deputy Director of Fulton County EMA, Kraig Smith, the two are doing their best to change things for the better. To run its facility to its full potential, Karas says Fulton County EMA needs more hands on deck. They are searching for local volunteers to join their team.
Last Saturday's storm tested the waters for Karas and Smith, who did their best to cover the county's damage assessment by themselves. Karas was surprised by how many community members did not recognize the EMA vehicle, due to the previous years of not having properly trained volunteers. Many stopped to ask, questioning the flashing redlights.
They hope to change that and become more familiar with the public, especially during emergencies. Karas hopes they can make locals more aware of their services.
Previously, running the Rochester Fire Department's volunteer program, Smith said you'd be surprised by the amount of untrained community members that show up to help during an emergency.
They are currently looking for at least 20 more volunteers from all types of backgrounds to participate. Volunteers will get certified training on things like basic search and rescue, basic firefighting, damage assessment and more. Anyone 16 years or older, with a valid driver's license and no felonies is qualified. Applicants must be suject to a background check.
Applications can be picked up at the Fulton County EMA building at 1728 East State Road 14 in Rochester. Building hours are Monday, Tuesday and Friday from 8 am-4 pm, although, as time goes on, they're hoping to be around more. Anyone with questions can call 574-230-6611.