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Monn retires as emergency management coordinator

June 17, 2002|by STACEY DANZUSO

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - When something is wrong in Franklin County, Dennis Monn is the man to call.

As emergency management coordinator, he oversees emergency drills and has plans for virtually any accident or disaster that could strike the county.

But after Wednesday, Monn is taking a vast amount of knowledge and experience into retirement - for the second time.

Monn retired from the Letterkenny Army Depot Fire Department in 1993 after 25 years, but even before that was official he was tapped by the county to serve in the newly created position of hazardous materials coordinator.

After five years of getting the program off the ground, Monn moved into his current post as emergency management coordinator.

He has seen the scope of his duties change and grow in the last four years with the addition of a terrorism task force and a drought task force.

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Franklin County is one of eight counties in the South Central Pennsylvania Counter-Terrorism Task Force, which was created several years ago. The role of that task force has increased dramatically since Sept. 11.

"The terrorism task force has become a full-time job in itself," Monn said. "We're constantly keeping up with the news."

The drought task force formed in February after the governor declared a drought emergency in Franklin County. The task force meets at least once a month to assess the water situation and brainstorm ways to make residents more aware of water conservation.

Emergency management services is the clearinghouse for almost everything, Monn said. "The office is the most logical place to clear these things through."

He has worked with the Penn State Cooperative Extension on a plan if foot-and-mouth disease should ever strike one of the county's dairy farms.

Then there are the plans for a West Nile Virus outbreak, weather emergencies, fuel spills, nursing home fires and even the breach of a dam.

"You have to be prepared for any type of disaster," he said.

Monn said the county is safe and prepared, although his department's response would have been tested had Flight 93 continued in the air another five or 10 minutes on Sept. 11. Instead of Shanksville, Pa., that plane could have easily crashed in one of Franklin County's open fields, he said.

"That plane could have been in our back yard," he said.

Monn has worked in emergency services since 1959, when he followed in his father's footsteps and joined the Mont Alto (Pa.) Volunteer Fire Department.

After serving in the Navy he worked as an electrician at Landis Tool before taking a job at Letterkenny.

"I never thought of being a paid firefighter as a kid. But in a small town like Mont Alto, what are you going to do but join the fire company?" he said.

At age 60, Monn said it's time to try retirement again. He plans to spend time with his grandchildren, Taylor and Kelsey Davies, ages 6 and 4.

"My grandson is crazy about fire trucks, I didn't encourage or discourage it," he said last week, laughing.

Monn said he will miss the people he works with, and the feeling is mutual.

"When he walks out the door, a lot of knowledge will go with him," said Gary Himes, hazardous materials coordinator. "We're trying to brainwash him into staying."

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