YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – WKBN Community Affairs Director Dee Crawford is talking with Mahoning County EMA Director Andy Frost about the agency’s mission.

Mahoning County EMA falls under the director of the Board of Mahoning County Commissioners.

“EMA is for preparedness. Whatever that looks like. Whether it’s disaster or weather related, anything that we can help prepare for,” Frost said. “Then, we provide different help to safety services and anything, basically, we can do to help out with responding to disasters, weather-related catastrophes. It’s just basically preparedness.”

With the train derailment in East Palestine in mind, Mahoning County has many rail lines running through it. Struthers is a community with the highest concentration.

“We have a lot of rail that actually runs through Mahoning County whether it’s in the southern areas down in Sebring or in the cities. I know that the train went through Sebring prior to coming to where we had the incident. But again, There are trains there and they’re moving pretty good, and they carry a lot of stuff that is potentially hazardous,” Frost said.

Frost went on to explain their definition of a disaster.

“So for us, basically, anything that exceeds our abilities to take care of it with the personnel that we have. You can look at a weather disaster, you can look at things as the railroad incident. If it exceeds our abilities at that point, then it… we declare. Well, we don’t declare, but we consider it a disaster or a mass casualty event, whatever it looks like. So anything that exceeds that ability,” he said.

Mahoning County was there to help during the train derailment in Columbiana County.

“We had some communities, Springfield and Beaver and a couple of other ones, that are very close to the incident. So they were on the initial call. Then as they determined that more resources were needed, they activated the state emergency response plan through the Fire Chiefs Association, through the fire marshal. Then we were bringing in counties, whole counties as groups. So Mahoning County was called very early in that as a county, not just those individual departments that were on the initial call,” Frost said.

When disasters such as this occur, impact budgets are directly affected. How does Mahoning County make up that difference in a budget?

“So that’s a very big concern to all of us, especially some of these smaller fire departments who just don’t have the resources, the financial resources. So right now, we are trying to help with the money coming in to offset those costs for those small departments, for different entities that were there — a lot of entities were there, not only fire departments,” Frost said.

According to Frost, the health department has done a lot for them.

“There’s been a whole lot of entities there and we’re trying to recover some of those costs at this time. So right now, we have a plan in place that we are submitting bills of our actual losses and our wages that we spent. We are giving those to East Palestine and they are forwarding those on to the right, appropriate agencies. We’re hoping to be able to get some cost reimbursement,” Frost said.

The long-term impact of the derailment is still yet to be determined.

“I think that is one of the big questions that we’re looking at, and all the agencies are looking at. They are all taking a look at what is going to be a long-term impact,” Fost said. “My firefighters were there. I know that we are going to continue to monitor them to make sure they are not having issues.”

Frost said other fire departments were there, too, and they are doing the same. Evaluations are being done every day in East Palestine.

Another question is are we prepared for the next time? Frost said we are as prepared as we can be.

“We have the local emergency planning committee, and we’re made up of all the different entities police fire, health department, hospitals. We all get together and we form these scenarios and try to be prepared for that…we run these scenarios in our heads. This is what our training is all about. I don’t think anybody is fully prepared for that, but we’re prepared as I think we can be.”

When a disaster happens the local fire chief is the first to get the call and then he calls in other resources.

“That’s where the EMA comes in. We provide him with what he needs. We bring in state organizations, federal organizations, wherever we need to go from that.”

Frost thanked all the first responders who worked on the scene in East Palestine. He said when they asked for volunteers to go back to the site on Monday, he said the response was overwhelming.

“I am just so proud of the responders that came to the aid of East Palestine that day from all over, three states, and it was unbelievable to see. It was great that when there are people in need, there are a lot of folks who are willing to step up,” Frost said.