Photo by Heather Middleton
By Johnny Jackson
Former county manager, Michael Turner, returned to Henry County this week, accompanied by a four-member delegation from the Republic of Georgia.
Turner said his return dealt with assisting the Republic of Georgia in, eventually, creating a centralized emergency management system.
With about the land area of a medium-sized state in the U.S., and a population above 4 million, the Republic of Georgia is attempting to improve the way it responds to emergencies, he said.
Turner is senior police advisor with the U.S. State Department's Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement (INL) Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi, Georgia. He was accompanied by Gvantsa Sauri, the INL's Program Coordinator in Tbilisi, who oversees the country's INL Program and provides assistance in improving the country's communications systems.
The INL officials were joined Wednesday by a delegation of the Republic's ministry of internal affairs, to take a look at the operations of the Henry County Emergency Management Agency.
INL has been in the Republic of Georgia -- once under the Soviet Union's sphere of influence -- since 2003, as a part of a foreign-assistance program for police development in the nation, according to Turner. The bureau also provides assistance in judicial reform and corrections reform.
"We're involved in a long-term development program," he said. "The whole purpose of our program is to promote good government and democratization. Everything we do supports the rule of law."
Turner, who is also Henry's former public safety division director, said the Republic of Georgia currently has emergency and law enforcement services, but they are disconnected from each other.
He said this week's visit is a part of information-gathering for Republic of Georgia delegates, to give them a sense of what may be necessary to create centralized operations in their country.
"It's a central component," he said. "Right now, it's so fragmented, and there are duplications of services there. The systems [law enforcement, emergency, etc.] are separate, and they only collaborate once they get on the scene and work together."
The goal, Turner explained, is to develop an emergency operations center (EOC) to improve the efficiency of the country's emergency-response system.
"One of the things we focus on is unified command, and an all-hazards approach," said Don Ash, Henry County's director of emergency management.
Ash noted that Henry's EOC went into full "all-hazards" mode last month when a winter storm left dangerous conditions across the region. Henry's Emergency personnel, from various departments, worked in tandem, and around the clock, throughout the event.
"In the winter storm, for instance, it was critical to have the right people in place," he said, pointing out that the Henry County Department of Transportation was on hand with emergency workers surveying conditions and responding to potential hazards.
Delegates from the Republic of Georgia -- Giorgi Tepnadze, Aleko Jakhua, Giorgi Jaliashvili, and Ivane Revishvili -- observed a demonstration by Tamika Kendrick, Henry's operational supervisor for 911 Operations. She presented, to them, the uses of the county's Computer-Assisted Dispatch (CAD) System in logging, and responding to, emergency calls.
Ash said the county has used the CAD System, with its various improvements, since 1994. He said the county began implementing an integrated response system, in 2006, under the concept of creating a public safety department.
He said representatives from China and Tailand paid the EOC a visit in 2010, to learn more about improving their emergency systems.
"I think they came back with a sense of what works at an EOC and what's needed," said Ash. "For them to come here, it says that, as a whole, we're doing some things that are right. Everything we do, we want to benefit our community."
The Republic of Georgia delegates, who also visited Cobb County on Monday and Tuesday, will end their trip to Henry County today, added Turner, the INL advisor.
The challenge for the Republic of Georgia, Turner continued, is to make sure that purchases for improving the system are intelligent purchases. "Cheap is not always the best," he said.