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Dave Ford, Branch Chief
The Communications Branch plays a large role in the development, deployment and maintenance of the communications and warning systems necessary to coordinate the disaster response needs of the state. It also develops and coordinates state and local warning and communications plans, to include the statewide Emergency Alert System and Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Services. The branch acts as the administrator of the State Communications Asset Survey and Mapping tool (CASM) file. CASM is tool used to plan communications and record asset locations and specifics. Its use has since been extended to and recommended for use by all government entities
The communications Branch maintains 17 of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio (NWR) warning system transmitters around the state. The NWR system has the capability to reach 97 percent of the population.
The Communications Branch installs and maintains the State of Ohio Rain/Snow Monitoring System (STORMS) program, which provides real time precipitation data to the National Weather Service and to local governments for flood forecasting. The STORMS system has 416 precipitation and 75 river stage gauges reporting into the system. These gauges are located in 65 Ohio counties.
Ohio EMA's communication resources include the Multi-Agency Communications System (MARCS). MARCS is a statewide 800 MHz trunked voice and data radio system incorporating state agency and non-state agency users. The system is currently deployed to all of the county emergency management agencies and four National Weather Service offices, providing the largest interoperable voice communication network in the state. The Communications Branch also maintains a separate emergency VHF voice network which consists of 26 county EMAs.
Overall, the branch is responsible for the statewide coordination of emergency communications during times of disaster and is responsible for the development and maintenance of warning and communication devices at 459 sites throughout the state and at the State of Ohio Emergency Operations Center.
The Logistics Branch is responsible for resource accountability, the EMA fleet, Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC) operations, and the staffing and function of Emergency Support Function (ESF) 7 in the State EOC during activations. The branch is also responsible for WebEOC operations and training and the Ohio EMA Geographic Information Systems (GIS) function.
The branch is responsible for ten mobile emergency power generators strategically located around the state and maintains a resource list of assets owned by Ohio EMA and other state and local agencies that can be drawn upon in disaster or emergency situations.
WebEOC is the information management software utilized by Ohio EMA and made available to all county EMAs as a means to track and analyze disaster information to assist with decision making and maintaining a common operating picture before, during and after incidents. The branch maintains and administers WebEOC and hosts training for both state and local users to learn or refresh their skills on the basic functions and usage of WebEOC.
Ohio EMA utilizes GIS to assist with achieving and maintaining a common operating picture by geographically plotting the location of impact areas, critical infrastructure, resource locations, impacted and at risk populations and other information to achieve a single current view of the situation and to assist with decision making.