OSAGE COUNTY, Missouri –
Missouri’s Osage County Sheriff uses DLA’s Law Enforcement Support Office to keep his county ready to respond to natural disasters that put citizens at risk.
Michael Bonham has been sheriff there for the past three years. He has seen equipment acquired from the Congressionally-authorized “1033 program” used to apprehend suspects, conduct search and rescue and help people during natural disasters.
This past spring, when local rivers overflowed their banks, Bonham and his department put their 24-foot, former Coast Guard boat to work.
“We secured it because it’s the perfect piece of equipment for the rivers – we have 150 miles of shoreline, with the Missouri River, the Osage River and the Gasconade River running through our county,” Bonham said.
The craft allowed them to patrol swollen rivers looking for people unable to contact any first responders but in need of help. They also checked on infrastructure, including dams and bridges, giving them early insight on what the recovery was going to entail.
He said that this is the first time the county has had a marine response program. Building it took more than just putting a boat on the water and heading out.
Bonham said the department had to create policies and get training to ensure safe operations. Policies included having flotation devices on board, which were also acquired through LESO.
For the smaller waterways, Bonham said the department picked up rubber rafts from DLA that will allow officers to cover even more territory.
When the rivers are flowing at normal levels, the former Coast Guard craft is used for regular patrols of the rivers. Bonham said the boat’s presence will help reduce criminal activity on the water.
His department has also acquired other equipment, such as trucks and ATVs for land-based search and rescues and apprehensions.
Two large former Army tents have also come to the department from the program, in case they are needed one day to house displaced people.
It’s all about being prepared.
“Our area is very prone to flooding and tornados,” Bonham said. “We look way beyond the box and the scope of what normal operations are and incorporate the equipment from the program which the county in no way, shape or form would ever be able to afford.”