The EMA is an agency people don't care about until there is a problem, the director said.
LISBON -- Colum- biana County this year opened its new, state-of-the-art Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management headquarters, a block south of the Columbiana County Courthouse.
For many years, the agency had been based in various offices that were far from modern.
But in 2005, First Energy Nuclear Operations Co., which runs the Beaver Valley Power Station in Shippingport, agreed to pay $607,000 for the new building. The state added an additional $67,500.
Columbiana County commissioners said that First Energy paid for the building because the county couldn't afford it -- because of its constant budget problems.
For years, the county EMA has participated in drills in case of a problem at the plant. Options range from warning people near the plant to ordering them to only take shelter to evacuations. The agency got high marks on its last test in June.
Darren Dotson, director of the county's Emergency Management Agency, said if needed, he could evacuate 22,000 people from southern Columbiana County -- about one-sixth of the county's population -- in three and a half hours.
When asked what people thought of his headquarters and duties, Dotson said, "I don't know what people's perception is, to tell you the truth."
Dotson said that the EMA is one of those agencies that people don't care about until there is some kind of problem.
Inside its new building's lobby, visitors can pick up a copy of HS Today, a glossy magazine whose cover says it is dedicated to "Insight & amp; Analysis for Homeland Security Decisionmakers."
There's also a guide to the U.S. Northern Command, which directs military homeland defense efforts and coordinates with civil authorities. The command went operational on the second anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington, D.C.
In recent years, the agency has administered local applications for federal funds.
One benefit has been new radios that allow various agencies to talk to one another.
Dotson said that in the two years he has worked for the county, local groups, mostly fire departments, have received about $750,000 in equipment.
Those funds are drying up as federal and state officials now target regional issues, Dotson said.