A Look at Training from Smalltown, USA - An Interview with an Emergency Manager

An Interview with an Emergency Manager

The Carbon Valley Emergency Management Agency is made up of 3 towns, 3 police departments, and 2 fire districts. They share many community resources, yet each entity has its own independent needs and priorities.  Now imagine being the first multi-jurisdictional emergency manager of the area.  Keep in mind, an official Emergency Management agency was just created in 2018 and is a shared service. It has to take into account the needs of many diverse groups and build a single emergency operations plan (including each entity's training needs). And to top it all off, it doesn’t receive EMPG funding.  Meet Merrie Leach Garner, Emergency Management Coordinator. 

With very little extra time on her hands, I reached out to Merrie to ask three questions:

    How has your planning for training been impacted since you don’t receive program grant funding (EMPG)?

      One advantage of not being grant dependent, I can take a broader approach and truly focus in on training needs versus grant driven training. Following Eisenhower’s urgent vs. important principle, I have set out to build a program: First identifying a base level of competency, then building a training program based on each individual department’s needs by starting with one key question “What problem are you trying to solve?”

        Do you feel new training delivery techniques will be beneficial for your agencies? 

          I am an extrovert, I like mingling with people, so the idea of virtual training initially concerned me about only screen interaction.  However, I found that rather than short task-based online impersonal meetings, I was able to glean new ideas.  Other parts of the country and other jurisdictional configurations do things differently.  People shared more.  The networking that comes out of these courses provides greater perspective, rather than simply talking to the same familiar faces at each event with similar processes.  

            What changes to training and exercise would be most beneficial in the future?

              No one seems to have the luxury of time or money these days.  For instance, with traditional position specific training, the courses are difficult to get into, and even harder to find.  Holding them in our jurisdiction is often beyond our budget.  Even if I could afford to put on a class, I couldn’t fill it from only my jurisdiction.  

              I’m excited about The Blue Cell’s new ICS Positions & Features Learning Program. It is a shorter time commitment for my people and they can work on it on their own.  It provides them the right information to do the job so they can integrate right away. I don’t always have the time to sit with each person and get them up to speed, so the bottom line is, it is an efficient and affordable solution for a local agency like mine.

              Merri Garner Emergency Manager The Blue Cell Virtual Training

              More About Merri Leach Garner:  Merri Garner has worked in emergency management for more than 13 years.  During this time she has served as the Emergency Manager for Carbon Valley Emergency Management Agency, and worked in both Weld & Boulder Counties in Colorado in the Offices of Emergency Management.  She specializes in disaster preparedness, EOC Operations and emergency planning.  She started her emergency services career in dispatch center.  Garner holds a Colorado Certified Emergency Manager certification and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in music and business.  She is working on conversational fluency in American Sign Language.  She resides in Frederick, Colorado with her husband and two sons.  


              Jim Erickson The Blue Cell Virtual ICS300 ICS400

              Jim Erickson has been working with the Public Safety and Emergency Management industries for 13 years providing hi-speed mass communication services, content and training management solutions, and disaster planning and damage assessment systems.Prior to entering the Public Safety and Emergency Management markets, Jim spent 20 years selling enterprise and government products and services with Moore North America, Rosetta Technologies, and Xerox Corporation.

              Jim was born and raised in Southern California and relocated to Colorado with his wife, Ann, in 2000.  They have four sons, whom Jim has helped mentor through The Boy Scouts of America program, as well as many other young men, having served as Scoutmaster, Committee Chairman, and Outdoor Program Advisor.  In addition to enjoying all the outdoor activities the Scouts has to offer, Jim enjoys off-roading in his Jeep and home-brewing.

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