MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - When disaster strikes in the Mid-South, who is in charge? While both Memphis and Shelby County now maintain separate emergency management offices, state law dictates which takes the lead in disastrous circumstances.
The question is: does that create problems?
“No, no,” said Memphis Fire Director Alvin Benson. “There’s no head-butting here.”
“We’re not going to get embroiled or embattled in a turf war,” said Bob Nations, the Director of Shelby County EMA.
Since Shelby County’s emergency management office relocated in July and the city is maintaining its own emergency management office, it's not always clear who's in charge.
According to Nations, “Under the Emergency Management Powers Act, authority is given to the county mayor.”
Thus by extension, authority is given to the Shelby County Office of Emergency Preparedness.
But if something small happens in midtown Memphis, “The city, as we always have, will respond to that emergency. If there is a large event countywide, everything rolls up under that agency,” Benson told abc24.com.
Despite that air of cooperation, there does seem to be an overlap.
“Nobody wants to duplicate services,” Nations said.
“It doesn’t circumvent, or override, or supersede, or compete with what happens in the county,” Benson added.
That includes sounding the warning sirens for severe weather.
Nations said, “Our folks push the button, still.”
For smaller emergencies in the City of Memphis, the emergency management number is (901) 636-2525. The emergency management number in Shelby County is (901) 515-2525; hopefully that’s not confusing.
“No one has called me and said they’re confused,” Benson affirmed.
That’s good, because no matter what the emergency might be or where it might happen, one thing matters most.
“It’s not a matter of who has the big hammer,” said Nations, “it’s a matter of serving the citizens.”
Both Nations and Benson emphasized that they would not let any matters of jurisdiction get in the way of maintaining the safety of Memphis and Shelby County citizens.