In ancient Greece,
the storyteller Aesop told a fable of a wise, industrious,
hardworking ant and the ant’s neighbor: the frolicking, carefree
grasshopper. When winter comes, the ant is prepared and well-stocked
for the bitter season while the grasshopper is left begging for aid
from the ant lest he perish. In later retellings of the fable, the
ant shows compassion and helps the grasshopper survive the winter.
For thousands of
years this moral has been told to illustrate the need for personal
certainly encourages us to not be like the grasshopper, the people of
Peoria County are fortunate they have a compassionate, hardworking
neighbor in the Peoria County Emergency Management Agency (EMA).
Prepare, Respond, and Recover
Since April 1994, R.
Jason Marks has been serving the community. Starting as a sanitarian
for the Peoria City/County Health Department before transitioning to
become Emergency Management Coordinator 10 years later, Jason was
finally appointed Peoria County Emergency Management Agency Director
of Emergency Management in 2018.
In his nearly 30
years of service, he has enjoyed working toward the continued
wellbeing of the community. What that work entails, however, is
increase in frequency and intensity, emergency management is
ever-changing,” says Jason. “As those hazards and vulnerabilities
differ over time the risks and threats to the public change.”
To make sure the
community remains a community, Jason says the Peoria EMA’s “goal
is to promote, coordinate, and direct a comprehensive emergency
management program which addresses mitigation, preparedness,
response, and recovery relative to disaster and major emergencies.”
the EMA seeks to reduce risk by preventing emergencies from either
taking place or engage in long-term activities to at least minimize
the adverse effects of the emergency when it does occur.
The EMA also
prepares “measures for preserving life and minimizing damage
resulting from disasters caused by enemy attack, sabotage, or other
hostile action, or from natural or man-made disasters.” They also
set up activities, programs, and systems used to support and enhance
response to an emergency or disaster.
Should any of the
aforementioned emergencies transpire, the EMA’s duty is, naturally,
to respond. By providing the necessary assistance, activities, and
programs designed to minimize the impact of the disaster, the EMA
addresses the immediate and short-term effects and helps reduce the
casualties and damage, and to speed recovery. Although the
recovery—returning the county and systems to their normal,
pre-emergency state—might sound simple, this responsibility that
falls to the EMA is anything but.
The foolishness of
the grasshopper in Aesop’s fable is notable, especially considering
the sure knowledge the winter is approaching, but the lesson
regarding the wisdom of preparedness remains the same even when
facing once-in-a-lifetime emergency situations. Helping people become
self-reliant in such situations is one of the core purposes of the
EMA and one that may minimize the need for a lengthy recovery after
“The first and
most important decision is to prioritize preparing,” Jason assures.
For this reason, the EMA has developed a budget-friendly plan for
families so they can build their own emergency supply kit over the
course of 24 weeks.
already hectic lives into account, the list is broken up in easy
chunks, averaging only three items to add and one or two steps to
take per week. These range from packing garbage bags and simple tools
to arranging for a friend to help your children should you be unable
to respond during an emergency. The list also includes instructions
for families with seniors, special needs individuals, persons with
disabilities, and pets. (The complete list is available for download
on the Peoria City/County Health Department website at
It is a part of
human nature to ignore or pretend negative events don’t even exist
until it is usually too late to do anything about them. “Recognizing
that there are threats and risks in the community and what those
specific hazards are and how they may affect individuals and families
is the second-best way to be prepared,” Jason adds.
In other words,
recognizing the winter is coming is a step in the right direction.
preparation, dealing with an emergency as it transpires, and
following through to recovery all require the same thing in order to
do so safely and successfully. “Knowledge is the key,” Jason
Knowing how to take
care of yourself and your loved ones, how the community partners are
coordinating and helping the area carry through, and of course
knowing there is a state of emergency in the first place will help
you to think clearly and avoid panicking.
vital when it comes to disseminating this knowledge. “We attempt to
do this in Peoria County by coordinating with various community
partners (government, agencies, private sector, non-governmental
organizations, etc.) in conduct of a Hazard Vulnerability Analysis
(HVA), assessment of the 32 FEMA Core Capabilities, and the ability
of the community to meet those,” Jason lists. The HVA is conducted
at the end of each year and encompasses how to respond to myriad
emergencies ranging from power failures or public unrest to frostbite
Jason continues by
adding the development of an Emergency Operations Plan (EOP) is also
implemented to ensure continuation of FEMA Community Lifelines during
an incident, to identify and coordinate training and exercises as
appropriate based on threats and risks to the community, and to
provide outreach to the community on how they can be prepared as
individuals and families.
As important as
communication can be during an emergency, he includes a caveat:
“Today more than ever it is critical to ensure that information is
being shared through authorized channels as the access to information
via social media, the internet, 24/7 news channels can create
disinformation and misinformation.”
Keeping this channel
of communication clear and true means establishing a foundation of
strong relationships between departments, agencies, and other key
partners. “The EMA’s role is in coordinating and facilitating
community activities around the operations of a Joint Information
Center (JIC) when appropriate during an incident,” Jason explains.
But the JIC and the Public Information Officer are tasked with
providing critical information to the public in a timely manner.
Survive, Prepare to Succeed
once stated: “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail. Never are
his words more proven than during a state of emergency.
emergency tests one’s mettle, the ability to be prepared for one
not only shows personal wisdom, but it contributes to the greater
good. The more prepared the individual is, Jason says, the more
resilient the community will be. An unprepared community will
ultimately be, in Benjamin Franklin’s words, a failed community.
But preparation need
not be a daunting task. In fact, Jason assures preparing for
emergencies can be quite simple. “It’s really just a mental
exercise and acceptance that certain hazards are a greater threat
than others,” he says. “And with a little preparation we can be
more comfortable in our ability to be okay.”
Emergency Management Agency is located at 10321 Civil Defense Road in
Brimfield, Illinois. For more information on how you can better
prepare yourself or your family for the next emergency, please visit
us on the web at www.peoriacounty.org/494/emergency-management or
phone us at (309) 679-6020.