Franklin County Turns To Veterans For Disaster Response

Darrell Koerber is deputy director of Franklin County Emergency Management and Homeland Security.(Photo: Tom Borgerding, WOSU News)
Darrell Koerber is deputy director of Franklin County Emergency Management and Homeland Security.(Photo: Tom Borgerding, WOSU News)

Franklin County is turning more to military veterans to prepare for natural and man-made disasters. The county is using a federal grant to train veterans in disaster psychology, urban rescue, first-aid, and fire safety.

The thing about disasters is they “come with little warning, they come with very destructive power…” says Darrell Koerber, deputy director of Franklin County Emergency Management and Homeland Security.

Since 2010, the agency has trained 250 volunteers to quickly respond to major floods, tornadoes, derechos, dam failures on the Scioto or Olentangy, or a game-day attack on Ohio Stadium. Koerber is especially interested in volunteers who are also veterans.

We know that they’ve worked within a team before, we know that they’ve been responsible for other people before, for equipment before.

As Franklin County begins a new nine-week disaster training course. Twelve of the 25 enrolled are military veterans. Chaplain Mikel Ryuho Monnett served in the U-S Army in Germany prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall. He says disaster preparedness training dovetails with his military experience.

“We veterans buy into it more because we’re used to the discipline of the structure and everything and we’re used to drilling and preparing for something that might come,” Monnett says.

Whereas the ordinary citizen, if they say ‘Well it might come, but why should I prepare if it just might come?’

As a chaplain, Monnett has seen the invisible scars of disasters. He volunteered with the Red Cross after the Sept. 11 attacks and Hurricane Katrina.

The Franklin County curriculum includes a course on disaster psychology.

Another veteran, Angelo Nocera, is also among the class of 25. He says disaster victims can also count on a veteran for leadership.

“You figure (with) a veteran beside a citizen that has not been in the military, there’s more structure, you’ve gone through formal training of first aid, and people look to that leadership”

Koerber says so far its mostly older vets who have volunteered for the response teams. He’d like to recruit some younger veterans returning from Iraq or Afghanistan.

“Don’t look at it as a bad thing that they’re not here because we have some great experience levels in the classroom now.

“I think within time though once they get settled in we’ll start to see of those type veterans here.”

More than 75,000 military veterans live in Franklin County. Koerber says he’d like to train 80 to 100 more this year in disaster preparedness.

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