Medford emergency manager gets to work

Medford emergency manager gets to work

Medford's new emergency manager comes with a resume that ranges from work following the Loma Prieta earthquake to consulting the state of California in how to deal with incidents involving weapons of mass destruction and terrorism.

Larry Masterman, a 57-year-old Weaverville, Calif., resident, says the goal of the newly created job is to get Medford ready for any disaster, whether it's man-made or delivered by Mother Nature.

"It is a priority for me to be ready," said Masterman, who will start Jan. 2. "Day 1 I will do as much as possible to be ready on day 2."

Masterman, who has run his own consulting firm, Preparedness Consulting and Training International, has worked as as a paramedic, communication specialist, first responder and regional disaster medical specialist.

He was a captain with the San Francisco Department of Public Health in 1989 during the Loma Prieta Earthquake, which caused widespread damage in the San Francisco area.

In April, the City Council set aside $213,800 in its budget to pay for a new emergency manager who will be expected to prepare the city to deal with a major earthquake or other disaster.

The city agreed to pay up to $145,000 for the annual salary and benefits of the new position, plus another $38,300 in materials and services annually. A one-time expense of $30,500 for equipment also is included. The base salary for the position, excluding benefits, ranges from $75,071 to $90,039.

Communities across the country have ramped up their emergency preparedness following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and Hurricane Katrina.

Previously the preparation for emergencies in Medford was handled by fire, police and the public works departments along with the city manager's assistant.

The new emergency manager would help create and direct a Citizen Emergency Response Team.

To qualify for federal grants, the city needs to have an emergency management plan in place to deal with disasters.

Masterman said he anticipates spending a lot of time meeting with department heads, emergency responders and others in the community, finding out what the local needs are for disaster preparedness.

He also will work closely with Jackson County's emergency manager.

"My learning curve is going to be really steep for a while," Masterman said..

Masterman's previous experience includes 14 years as the emergency management systems director for a 13-county region in northern California. His consulting work has included such topics as bioterrorism, hazardous materials response and developing a regional mass casualty plan in northern Colorado.

Southern Oregon has been identified as an area that would likely suffer considerable damage in an earthquake caused by a shift in the Cascadia subduction zone off the Oregon Coast. Scientists say the region is overdue for a major quake.

Masterman said emergency responders also need to be mindful of the potential for terrorist threats. He cited the terrorist training camp in Bly that authorities uncovered in 1999. In 2010, authorities uncovered a house in Escondido, Calif., stashed with homemade explosives.

One of his main duties will be education, he said, which will allow him to draw on his experience with his own training company.

Masterman, who is married and has two grown sons living in Eugene, said he plans to devote himself full time to the job of emergency manager for Medford.

"We're just putting our heads in the sand if we don't have a good plan in place," he said.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or Follow on Twitter at @reporterdm.

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