By Cathy Powers
When Posey County residents answer their phones and there is a recorded message informing them of a water boil order, or perhaps a flash flood warning, it is Larry Robb’s voice they hear. As director of the Posey County Emergency Management Agency, he is one of the main reasons we can all feel quite safe to live in this county. For the past fourteen years, he has held this position.
Robb has performed some type of Posey County service job since 1980, when he became a 911 dispatcher. After a month , he began to work for the sheriff’s department, as a jailer. He was to spend the next twelve years there, with the last four of them as jail commander.
He then transferred back to become a dispatcher once again, and spent the next eight years in that position. He was the 911 director for one year.
Robb has always been interested in doing this type of service work. He became a volunteer fireman and EMT in his hometown of New Harmony, and has been a volunteer fireman for over 30 years.
There are 12 directors in Southwest Indiana, and they meet monthly. Frequently they travel to one of the other counties in their region to lend assistance, when it is needed. During the 2011 flooding emergency, four or five other directors showed up in Posey County to offer advice and aid.
After the recent violent storm in Boonville, Robb and others were there to assess the damage and suggest the proper procedures to begin the clean-up and recovery. There are guidelines that are in place for these trained professionals to use during just such an emergency.
Indiana has 10 separate response districts, with Posey County being part of district number 10. It contains 12 counties in the southwestern portion of our state.
There are many facets of being a director, focusing on four different things. First, there is Planning. County directors must always be thinking ahead, in order to be ready for whatever event might occur. They have to be prepared for different types of emergencies. In Posey County, Robb says that the worst case scenario would be a major earthquake. There are no buildings that are built to withstand this, and of course, there would be no warning. He meets regularly with the 4-H Fair Board and consults with the committee about River Days. In order to make these events safe for the public, it is very necessary to prepare for any type of accident or emergency that might be possible. They are already thinking ahead to the 2016 Mtount Vernon Bicentennial.
Mitigation is the second responsibility. The director has to immediately know who to call, and what immediate action can be taken to lessen potential damage. Knowing that certain problems are fairly likely to occur, certain actions can be done ahead of time to make them less catastrophic. For instance, work is being done in New Harmony to have floodgates for future use. They are applying for grant money to use for this project.
Referring next to Response and Recovery, Robb tells of the mass casualty 24’ trailer, which can carry supplies for up to 100 injured people. There are also 7 ‘tents’ in each district. These are far from the normal expectation of just a tent. They are 20’x40’ military grade, and have hard floors, heating, and air conditioning. Both the Evansville hospitals also have similar tents, which are available for use in the case of a major pandemic.
Directors have the ability to call for the National Guard, if they should perceive a need for their assistance. There is a RACES team, which stands for Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Services. They can provide emergency communication services in possible periods of disasters when all other methods are not operational.
Another volunteer team is CERT (Community Emergency Response Team). This is composed of trained individuals with life saving skills, and other understanding of the correct methods of help in an emergency, Sometimes, following a disaster, many ‘spontaneous volunteers’ show up with good intentions of offering help. However, with no prior knowledge of proper ways to do so, they sometimes compound the problem, and could become victims themselves. If any individual is interested in being able to step up for some future event, they should receive the necessary training.
As referred to earlier, Posey County has the technology now for CodeRED. This provides the ability to quickly deliver phone messages to either targeted areas or the entire county. Robb says that nobody should assume that they are automatically included in this service. Individuals or businesses can log onto the website, WWW.poseycountoygov.org, or call 812-838-1333, to be sure they are signed up. The agency also has a Facebook page, with additional information.
Robb is also chairman of the 911 Advisory Board. They hold regular meetings to discuss policy procedures. Any changes must be voted on and approved by the county commissioners.
A great example of always working ahead for Posey County’s safety is the fact that they have worked with the company proposing the new fertilizer plant from the very beginning.
Robb is also chairman of the LEPC; the local emergency planning committee. This is required by the state of Indiana, and provides control and guidelines for hazardous materials that might be passing along our local highways.
In addition to all of his other training, Robb is a trained arson investigator, and has completed electronic training at the ITT Technical Institute.
He further states, “We are all very fortunate to live here, compared to other areas of the country. Not only are we less likely to have a major problem, such as multiple tornadoes, there is a harmonious group of individuals working together to make lives secure.”
The state provides half of the amount needed for the salary of his position as director, and for that of his well-trained administrative assistant, Carrie Thompson. In the case of his not being available during an emergency, she is totally capable of stepping up to take over.
The citizens of Posey County are also protected by nine Fire Departments, five Police Agencies, (as well as the DNR and the State Police) and four Ambulance Stations.
We should all sleep more soundly, knowing that individuals like Larry Robb have dedicated their lives to over-seeing our health and safety in Posey County. Sometimes we take these unsung heroes for granted. Perhaps that is easy to do because he is always there, doing his job to protect us.
He and his wife, Millie, reside in New Harmony, and have been married for 35 years. They have three children, Valerie, age 32, of Lakeland, Florida, Janet, age 30, of Elizabethtown, Kentucky, and Christopher, age 27, of New Harmony. They have one grandson, James, of Lakeland, Florida. Their other ’family’ includes 40 chickens, five ducks, five cats, a parrot, and a Saint Bernard.
By Cathy Powers