Communication system changes combined with upgrades to training have made Ryan Currens' near 2 1/2 years as Tama County Emergency Management coordinator and E911 director busy as well as memorable. He is leaving the post on Sept. 8 and will joining private business in the county. Julie Vokoun, the assistant in the office, will be the interim head.
The director oversees operations of the 24-hour-a-day communications center at the Tama County Courthouse in Toledo as well as acting as coordinator in the event of a emergency or disaster circumstance county-wide.
A portion of the job is to assure training opportunities are made available to the 12 volunteer fire departments, seven ambulance services and two first responder groups.
"Getting to work with responders all over the county - they all have a story I always find fascinating. Talking to every fireman, cop, EMT, they all have an interesting story to tell," Currens said.
The drecho windstorm of 2011 with straight line winds topping 110 miles-per-hour in parts of Tama County in 2011 and the damage it left behind occurred within a couple of months after Currens was named director.
Extensive flooding this year across the county and particularly affecting Chelsea also called for response from Currens' departments.
The Tama County dispatchers won the Iowa APCO award for 2011 as the result of their work during the drecho storm.
"We're real lucky in Tama County to have the dispatchers with experience," Currens said.
He notes they are all certified "and just do a fantastic job."
While serving as E911 director, Currens said a change was made to eight full-time dispatch positions and added part-time. He said this shift results in a taxpayer savings.
During his tenure, the nation-wide change to "narrow-band" radio frequencies was mandated to be completed.
In Tama County, Currens said the switch resulted in the addition of one radio tower at Dysart to make a total of seven covering the entire county.
The radio equipment changes and tower work cost about $200,000, Currens said.
"It has provided for a more crisp, reliable signal for responders. It's not perfect by a long shot, but it's what we can get with the money we have in a small county," Currens said.
Currens said Tama County Emergency Management has offered "full-scale" training for responders has been made available for each of the past two years.
Training on this level is only required by the State of Iowa once every three years.
Currens and his wife, Meg, live at rural Traer. They are the parents of Jimmy, 17 months, and Charlie, born on Aug. 16.
While leaving his day-to-day position in emergency management, Currens will still have contact. The location of the family home qualifies him to serve as a firefighter for both Traer and Clutier.