Clare EMD called “awesome” county resource

August 31, 2017

By Pat Maurer

Although people may not hear much about him unless there is a disaster or emergency, Jerry Becker, Director of the Clare County Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security for Clare County, is a busy man.

He is responsible for keeping Clare County a safe place.

Becker handles a one-man office, but does have some help from a dozen volunteers, he said. Six on Amateur Radio and six on Damage Assessment.

Still he is the one man responsible for the administration, planning, coordination and operation of all emergency preparedness and Homeland Security related activities in Clare County.

To do all that he has to “maintain a liaison with county, state and federal authorities and with the authorities of adjacent and nearby political subdivisions to insure the most effective emergency operations.”

He is active in the whole county and state. Clare Fire Chief Jim Chapman called him an “awesome, priceless resource for the county and for the Clare Fire Department.”

Jerry Becker, director of Clare County’s Emergency Management and director of Homeland Security for the County, monitors weather and national events that could affect the area at his office in the Clare County Building.

Jerry Becker, director of Clare County’s Emergency Management and director of Homeland Security for the County, monitors weather and national events that could affect the area at his office in the Clare County Building.

“I can call him and find out whatever I need and get assistance on help from a multitude of agencies and resources through his expertise. He is available to all the fire departments in the county and attends our meetings. He has brought hundreds of thousands of dollars in grant money to Clare County,” Chapman said.
“Jerry makes this community and county a safer place to live,” he added.

Becker is the man that is responsible for the development and review of Clare County’s Emergency Operations Plan as well as any other disaster plans that insure the immediate use of all of facilities, equipment, manpower and resources of the county and charged with protecting and restoring governmental services and public utilities in the event of a disaster anywhere in the county. That includes Hazard vulnerability Analysis, THIRA (Threat & Hazard Identification & Risk Assessment), and Hazard mitigation planning.

Besides all that, Jerry is the Homeland Security Region VI governing board chairman. As chair of the board that oversees each Homeland Security Division in the Region VI 13 county area and oversees the fiduciary (funding) for each of the divisions. He also oversees the regional planning group which develops emergency plans for each of the counties. Region VI includes Clare, Isabella, Osceola, Montcalm, Mecosta, Mason, Oceana, Muskegon, Ottawa, Kent County including the city of Grand Rapids, and Newaygo County.

In his office in the Clare County Building, he constantly monitors national incidents all over the world and reports them to other county agencies.

Recently the crisis involving North Korea prompted concerns from county residents who were worried about the situation. “It has been at least 20 years since we have seen anything like this,” he said. Since the North Korea situation developed, we have been getting more alerts of this type than we have in years.”

He continued, “One concern we heard about is whether we are at risk from EMP (Electro Magnetic Pulse), which would be generated by a high altitude detonation of a nuclear weapon. We are not concerned about this but I am glad he (a county resident) contacted us so we could share information about it with him.”

He said, “I don’t want people to become fixated on the situation with North Korea. There’s really nothing they can do about it, but if they have concerns, they should call.”

Another responsibility for Becker here in Clare County is recruitment and training volunteers and agencies to help with emergencies, and developing public information programs to educate the population about what to do to protect people and property in case of a disaster.

That includes practice alerts and exercises to hone the operation of the county’s emergency organization and familiarize residents with emergency regulations, procedures and operations.

He worked with a budget of $88,719 in 2017, which included $24,917 in pass through money through Homeland Security grants for local projects, leaving about $64,000 for operations.

In addition to those funds, other Homeland Security grants help pay for police and sheriff’s department equipment and software. “Those funds recently provided a thermal imaging camera for the Sheriff’s Posse,” he said, “and helped buy computer software for both the Sheriff’s Department and Clare Police Department.”
He said 35 percent of his own salary is paid through the Michigan State Police.

He assists in and evaluates exercises at facilities including the hospital, long-term care facilities, schools, education facilities, lockdowns, fire, weather situations and more and training for public officials. “I am an instructor for this and provide free ongoing training to our agencies,” he said.

Schools must report emergency activities including lockdowns, and plans to the EMD.

He also is responsible for the maintenance of the Public Warning system including ongoing training and testing of related components and RAVE/Smart911, outdoor warning sirens, email and social media reports and with developing new technologies that are appearing for public warning and notification processes.
He chairs the boards of LEPC/LPT, Broadband, School Liaisons, Hazard Mitigation Planning and Communications groups. “All of these groups are intertwined in a lot of ways and are of strategic importance to the county’s overall health and vitality,” Becker said.

As EMD he also oversees all of Clare County’s communications infrastructures which includes tower site maintenance and generators and other communication assets.

He said, “EMD oversaw the move to secured tower sites for both south and west communications systems, removing the county from lease payments.”

The department headed by Becker also assisted 911 with establishing an auxiliary backup dispatch center at the Public Works complex in Clare.

Homeland Security funds have been used to replace aging radio repeaters and infrastructure which has increased the reliability of communications systems and reduced the cost.

Clare County EMD also plans and certifies large events in the county for the safety of all who work and attend them. Some of those events include the Harrison Triathlon, Clare County Fair’s large concert, graduation events, festivals and other large events.

Becker said, “These plans are developed each year and maintained along with daily briefings and coordination with public safety and other partners to ensure they continue into the future.”

“We stand ready to support any request for assistance in Clare County,” He said.

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