ELLSWORTH — The Hancock County Commissioners Dec. 4 approved the hiring of Andrew Braley of Bass Harbor to serve as deputy director of the Hancock County Emergency Management Agency (EMA).
Braley will have a starting salary of $40,000 a year plus benefits. He will serve under EMA Director Andrew Sankey and will start Dec. 15.
Braley replaces former deputy director Bradley Nuding, who is now serving as deputy EMA director for Penobscot County.
The new deputy director is a graduate of the University of Maine-Augusta and is a paramedic for the Southwest Harbor-Tremont Ambulance Co. Braley was an Eagle Scout and is a Scout volunteer.
Perhaps you are wondering what the Hancock County Emergency Management Agency does.
For starters, the agency coordinates emergency response efforts and educates the public.
“We service municipalities and the public service agencies within them,” Sankey said. Police and fire departments are an example.
Sankey said half of the agency’s funding is through a U.S. Department of Homeland Security grant. The other half comes from local tax dollars.
Remember the ice storm of 1998? Or the Nov. 2, 2014, heavy snow and wind storm that took out power to Deer Isle-Stonington and parts of the Blue Hill Peninsula for over a week?
Part of the agency’s role is to document the problems experienced by each municipality in such events and get that information to the Maine Emergency Management Agency for possible disaster funding from the federal EMA (FEMA).
Sankey cautioned that each citizen is tasked with his or her own emergency preparedness.
“Our key message to the public is personal preparedness and resiliency,” Sankey said. “As we’ve seen countless times, government — at any level — does not do a good job providing for its citizens in an emergency. We have to plan and prepare for ourselves.”
This is as basic as being mindful of upcoming weather conditions year-round. Is there a storm coming and you’re a diabetic reliant on insulin? Get your refill ahead of time, Sankey said.
Make sure you have enough food and water at your household for each family member to last at least 72 hours. Do you have a farm or pets? Make sure your livestock has adequate provisions.
Another one of the agency’s duties is public outreach.
To that end, Sankey met with 70 residents of Deer Isle and Stonington on Nov. 30 at the Deer Isle Congregational Church to discuss emergency preparedness.
One of the questions discussed was how the island would care for visitors in a crisis. The population of both towns doubles during the summer season. There isn’t nearly enough lodging and there may not be enough supplies.
Speaking of summertime, there were more than 3.5 million visitors to Acadia National Park last year. That’s a big jump over Hancock County’s year-round population of 54,000 residents.
That increase in population means risks of emergencies increase too.
“We have the same staffing and resources to handle the millions as we do the 54,000,” Sankey said. “Of course we rely on all our public safety partners to get that job done.”
Sankey said Hancock County has a “big federal presence” with the National Park Service and the U.S. Coast Guard.
“We facilitate relationships between those guys and local agencies,” he said. “A big one is communications. We make sure they can talk to each other.”
Another service Sankey and his deputy director provide is grant writing for local agencies, such as volunteer fire departments.
“We also provide funding for special operations training, such as handling hazardous materials for first responders,” Sankey said.
“One of the nice things about the job is it changes every day,” Sankey said. “We get to work and meet with a lot of dedicated professionals and volunteers whose sole purpose it is to protect lives.”
The agency also, with the help of former Hancock County Sheriff’s Maj. Richard Bishop, provides emergency planning and preparedness for local schools.
Planning is also available for businesses and entities which may have hazardous materials on site, such as the Hancock County-Bar Harbor Airport and The Jackson Laboratory.