Versailles – Shawn Alvarado recently stepped into the role of Ripley County Emergency Management Agency director.

"One of my biggest responsibilities is making sure there is an emergency plan in case of a disaster, whether it be weather related or man-made," reports the Westport resident.

"In Jennings County, I was a volunteer with the Scipio (Geneva Township) Fire Department for years. I've been a paramedic for 10 years in a lot of surrounding counties. I worked for private companies and 911," holding management positions in some of those.

"I was on a police SWAT team for two years as a medic in Columbus, and I loved it. The saddest part is when you went to somebody's home and kids were there."

In addition, "I was deployed to Hurricanes Michael and Florence .... (Those experiences) pushed me to want to work with those plans and make sure people were taken care of in those times of need."

"Last year with Florence, there were evacuation helicopters that moved people to three hours away to where they were safer. The stories you heard from people were about the unbelievable devastation," the 45-year-old points out.

"Working 911 in Bartholomew County out of Columbus Regional (Health) was a big eye-opener. It's amazing how rural and city EMS operations are so different .... Lots of times you know your community in the rural areas, but when you go to the city, it takes it to a different level."

"This (EMA position) seemed like the next progression."

"I work very closely with Ripley County EMS and local fire departments," Alvarado reports. "I also partner with private businesses, Red Cross, health department and school corporations. The whole community has to come together when something happens."

"We do trainings and events and are pro-active to make sure all pieces are in place .... We do at least three exercises a year, so everybody can wrap their minds around what could happen in an emergency.

"We want people to be prepared for when or if something happens. It's just like doing a fire drill. How often do we have a fire, but we still know we are prepared for it."

To be ready for emergencies, he says, "The best thing to do is to have a plan for your household and family, including having a meeting place or shelter in case of a tornado. That way, you know everyone in your house is accounted for and people are safe."

He recommends having "emergency kits, water to sustain your family for a couple days, canned foods and flashlights with batteries to be prepared for a couple days without power."

However, he stresses, "Do not run into a situation where there has been a disaster and just start helping. You need to find the necessary people to talk to at incident command. They will direct you where to go."

Alvarado is married to Tabitha, who is a licensed practical nurse in Greenwood, and they have four children: Gabriella, 12, Seth, 14, Christopher, 24, and Jona, 24; and five grandkids.

His hobbies include attending minor league baseball games, going camping, playing golf and fishing.

For more information about the RCEMA, persons can call 812-689-0505.

Diane Raver can be contacted at diane.raver@batesvilleheraldtribune.com or 812-934-4343, Ext. 220114.

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