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As of Sept. 5 Toole County has a new Disaster and Emergency Services (DES) coordinator, Cindy Combs. For those who are unsure about what DES is responsible for the answer is, a lot. DES oversees and coordinates the response agencies and departments in preparation for coping with emergencies or disasters in coordination with other local, State and Federal authorities. It is also in charge of planning, analyzing and implementing disaster emergency plans and policies that are in compliance with regulation standards, works with the Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC), preparing and managing funding grants with reporting requirements to the Toole County Commissioners and the State of Montana DES, and acts as liaison to local, State and Federal agencies while also acting as a media source through public information. 

Combs has been employed as the emergency preparedness coordinator for Marias Medical Center for the past 10 years and upon the County DES position opening up she applied.

“When the Toole County DES coordinator position opened I felt it was a good fit for me, so I applied,” she said. “I feel the community needs to understand how important it is to plan and prepare for disaster situations. Our fire department and EMS work hard to be educated and prepared to meet the needs of the community during fires and emergent medical situations. It should be the same for members of our community, they need to be ready for disaster situations like flood or severe weather.”

As the coordinator, Combs is responsible for planning, analyzing and implementing the Toole County Emergency Operation Plan, Pre-Disaster Mitigation Plan, Safety Program Plan and the Emergency Operation Center (EOC) Plan, along with others. It’s Combs who takes care of reviewing, updating and distributing these plans to the local emergency responders, ensuring that all are working together and within the same guidelines. If that’s not enough, she also plans, designs, executes and evaluates emergency response exercises and training, including training local groups in preparation for real-life events. 

The DES coordinator is instrumental in making sure all bases are covered and all agencies are in compliance and working together in a disaster situation. Combs’ job carries a lot of responsibility and challenges, but she does have the help of the Local Emergency Preparedness Committee (LEPC), a group made up of representatives from public and private agencies in the community. The LEPC meets with Combs the third Tuesday of every other month to plan and coordinate responses to all possible hazards in the County.

“The most important part of my job is writing emergency operation plans,” said Combs. “The Toole County Disaster and Emergency Services mission is to protect lives and property through preparedness, response, recovery and mitigation planning and activities.”

Serving as the County’s DES coordinator is a big job, requiring time, dedication, organization and communicating with numerous other agencies at every level. With her past experience at MMC and the skills she has developed throughout the years Combs is one Toole County residents can count on to make sure everything is in place and ready for any disaster that may strike. If you would like more information or have questions you can contact Combs via email at des@toolecountymt.gov or call (406) 450-6261.

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