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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

New emergency manager in place

Friday, November 30, 2012

Terri Coop, the new Bourbon County Emergency manager, poses for a photograph in her office on Thursday.(Laurie Sisk/Tribune)
Speaking from her office in the depths of the Bourbon County Courthouse, Terri Coop said she is looking forward to serving Bourbon County as its new Emergency Manager. Her office, which resembles a bunker of sorts, with shelves upon shelves of manuals and concrete wallpapered with maps, is the home base where Coop will manage emergency resources for the entire county.

Coop came to Fort Scott about 12 years ago from Tulsa and moved her online antiques and collectibles business, (magicmarxie.com) here, which included collectible cowboy action figures and accessories.

She worked as a criminal defense and child support attorney in Bourbon County and then began working on child support enforcement for the state of Kansas.

But Coop's interest and experience in safety came about long before then.

"Before I became an attorney, I was a civil engineer with Mobil Oil," Coop said. "I did this kind of work for Mobil, I was environmental supervisor for a chemical plant in Frankfort, Ill."

Coop said the plant manufactured the trays that meat comes in at the supermarket.

"I managed all the environmental and safety programs," Coop said. "So this position was a good fit and I was ready to do something different," Coop said.

Coop said she thought the local emergency personnel's reaction to last September's storm was excellent and though she knows a lot of the people involved in that recovery effort, she is still busy meeting more.

"I'm taking over an excellent program and it's a privilege to be part of it," Coop said. "I haven't met everybody yet, but a lot of them I know already."

Coop wasn't the least bit hesitant in expressing confidence in the people she will be managing.

"The name says manager. My job is to manage the flow of information of paperwork and interface with the state with the regulatory agencies," Coop said. "I don't tell Paul (Ballou-Fort Scott Fire Department Chief) how to fight fires, I just deal with the management part of it so he doesn't have to."

Coop said another responsibility of her position is to keep up to date on regulations, equipment and technology.

"I basically try to make it easier for the first responders to do their jobs," Coop said.

She said she will be going through mandatory training to become a certified emergency manager, which is required as part of the job. Coop said she has 24 months to complete that training, which includes online and training in Topeka.

"You just start working your way through it," Coop said.

She said the training will include incident command management.

"There are certain protocols you follow when an incident happens," Coop said. "If everyone is trained the same way, everyone already knows what their job is."

Part of Coop's job will also entail working and coordinating with Kansas Emergency Management Agency (KEMA) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Coop said the most challenging part of her job right now is "just getting my hands around all of it" and getting up to speed.

"It's a lot of information," Coop said. "The word emergency covers a lot of territory."

She said she is busy now examining the record keeping process in her department.

"That's so if a regulatory agency comes, they will be able to examine our records," Coop said.

Those agencies are numerous, including Homeland Security, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Transportation and FEMA.

"It really depends on the nature of the emergency, but primarily it will be FEMA and Homeland Security," Coop said. "It's Kansas; it's always typically going to be weather -- and not necessarily tornadoes, because our emergencies lately have been straight-line winds. But in Kansas it is about the weather and that encompasses wind, flooding.

"I hope to get into more community outreach," Coop said. "There will be a Facebook page and the county website is currently under reconstruction."

Coop also said she hopes to increase involvement in the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT).

"We are going to be recruiting in the first quarter of next year," Coop said. "We'd like to have some more volunteers who would be willing to be trained to basically be lay responders. They would do everything from help with triage to taking care of pets that are recovered during emergencies to assisting with crowd and traffic to doing search and rescue. There are a lot of different opportunities for people who are interested in volunteering. They are kind of like a reserve force."

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