11/23/06 — Col. Kwast gets key to the county

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Col. Kwast gets key to the county

By Andrew Bell
Published in News on November 23, 2006 8:19 AM

The 4th Fighter Wing's new commander got his official welcome to town this week, and pledged to continue to reinforce the relationship between Wayne County and Seymour Johnson Air Force Base.

And that starts with understanding how the county and the base can take care of each other, said Col. Steven Kwast after accepting the key to Wayne County from the Board of Commissioners Tuesday.

Kwast said the gift, which he accepted on behalf of all the airmen at Seymour Johnson, was the first step in reinforcing the relationship the groups have shared for generations -- and for protecting this community and nation.

"This is an honor to the base and all those who reside here, and may this key seal the bonds of friendship and cooperation between us," Kwast said.

Kwast, along with his staff, joined the commissioners as they visited county departments and reviewed how the technology in those departments helps county residents, Seymour Johnson airmen and their families.

If a jet were to crash in the county, the technology used in the county's planning department can pinpoint residences within any distance of the crash and provide information to those people quickly, said Chip Crumpler, Wayne geographic information systems director.

The GIS branch of the planning department uses data from other county departments, along with the county's latest topography and residential information, to develop specific maps, Crumpler said. These map displays include county zoning, flood zones and the county's wetlands. The maps can even include the county's infant mortality rate or project the future population of children up to 14 years of age, he added.

Since the planning department also handles permits for subdivisions and other kinds of developments, Kwast said the department could be a useful tool for Seymour Johnson.

"As we have people that continue to flow into Wayne County, we can look at how to utilize (this technology) to help people and show them where they may want to locate," Kwast said.

The county's Office of Emergency Services is another area that serves residents on base and off, officials said. The office combines the services of the fire marshal, emergency management, emergency services and the 911 call center.

If a manmade disaster or medical emergency affected the county, people can call 911 and law enforcement officers, one of the county's 28 volunteer fire departments and paramedics can be dispatched to the scene, Emergency Medical Services Director Blair Tyndall said.

The county's 911 center receives about 400 emergency calls every day, 911 center Director Delbert Edwards said. Although some of those calls are accidental or don't require emergency personnel, he said emergency services is always ready to respond.

There are nine EMS stations spread across the county, which allows a paramedic to be at any scene within six minutes, Tyndall said.

Kwast told emergency management officials he saw this in action when a man at his church appeared to have a stroke. After calling 911, paramedics were on the scene in 3 minutes and 20 seconds.

Even if the person who called 911 is unable to speak, the county's 911 center can pinpoint his location with the help of a computer-aided dispatch and GIS, Edwards said. Within minutes, law enforcement officers are on the scene.

Kwast said he envisions the county expanding to provide every responder, whether a paramedic or sheriff's deputy, with screens that tell them where emergencies and their fellow responders are at all times -- much like the capabilities given to fighter pilots.

He added that he and Seymour Johnson officials are willing to work with county officials and their departments in any way to become a more cohesive unit.

"Any time you see an issue come up when Seymour Johnson can be a better member of the community based on what we do on base, please approach us," Kwast said. "We will adjust and find a way to make it work."

"And we ask the same of you," County Commissioner Atlas Price responded.