ADEM Chief A.J. Gary Runs Risk Factors for Safest Scenarios

ADEM Chief A.J. Gary Runs Risk Factors for Safest Scenarios
A.J. Gary
Director of the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management (Kerry Prichard)
A.J. Gary was named in 2016 to lead the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management. He is also the state’s homeland security adviser.

Previously, Gary was security and compliance director of the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery. He spent 28 years in law enforcement, including a stint as Conway’s police chief. Gary was chief security administrator for Air Transport International LLC as well. He has a bachelor’s and master’s degree from Central Baptist College and Arkansas State University, respectively.

Gary sees a New Madrid Seismic Zone earthquake as Arkansas’ “most likely worst-case disaster.”

What would you like the government to focus on to prevent disasters and react better to them?

Natural disasters cannot be prevented. However, the effects of a natural disaster can be mitigated. Mitigation to disaster-damaged facilities and pre-disaster mitigation are key to minimizing the effects of a disaster.

Although it can be difficult to prevent a manmade disaster, increased awareness and utilizing technology to detect man-made threats and hazards can help lessen, or even prevent, some of those events from taking place.

I believe local, state and federal governments should promote a culture of thinking outside the box for mitigation proposals and should work harder to approve more creative mitigation measures.

Emergencies related to climate change (floods, etc.) are happening more frequently. What is ADEM doing to plan for the increasing frequency and severity of climate change-related emergencies?

We are continuously planning and conducting exercises so we are ready to handle disasters. The planning and exercises are done in coordination with local emergency management and state agencies. Everyone should develop family preparedness plans and disaster kits. They need to ensure enough insurance coverage for all types of disasters, including flood insurance.

The ADEM Recovery Branch stays trained on the ever-changing disaster grant programs available, and continues to look for new and creative avenues for disaster assistance.

What should businesses do to prepare for emergencies like floods, tornadoes and power outages? Does ADEM have resources to assist them along these lines?

Arkansas businesses should ensure insurance coverage is sufficient.

Develop business preparedness plans and offer disaster training to employees. Practice those plans. Make sure that your employees know what the processes and procedures are if an emergency situation should arise. Are they prepared to be shut down for an undetermined amount of time? Are they prepared to rebuild and get back to business? ADEM offers outreach programs, training and other resources on our website.

The best thing businesses can do is prioritize their risk management. They are the best ones to know what risks their companies face. They should have contingency plans to ensure continuity of operations. Have a plan to address not only the physical facilities but also their personnel. How will they operate if a large number of staff cannot reach the company or have to be off to take care of family impacted by a disaster?

ADEM’s critical infrastructure branch can assist companies in threat assessments and active threats. We also want the businesses to develop relationships with local emergency managers and other local support agencies.