Greencastle native is new emergency management coordinator

Donald Eshleman Jr. brings years of experience in fire service and emergency preparedness to the position.

Donald Eshleman Jr. brings years of experience in fire service and emergency preparedness to the position.

September 03, 2002|by STACEY DANZUSO

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Donald Eshleman Jr. said he has been poring over stacks of disaster plans a few feet high since he took over as Franklin County's emergency management coordinator last month.

The Greencastle, Pa., native brings years of experience in fire service and emergency preparedness to the position, which is essentially responsible for keeping Franklin County braced to handle any kind of disaster from chemical spills to terrorism to the current drought.

Eshleman has volunteered with the Greencastle Fire Department for 24 years - since he was 18 - but over the years he has shifted from fighting fires toward more administrative work.


"I can't do what I did as an 18-year-old," Eshleman said. "I'm planning, and grant-writing and making sure the 18- and 19-year-old group who can do the work have the equipment they need."

Eshleman said that switch got him involved in fire safety in industry, and he wound up drafting emergency response plans for World Kitchen's Franklin County distribution center.

He took a promotion two years ago to the company's glass manufacturing plant in Corning, N.Y., only to become a victim of corporate downsizing.

The opening in the Franklin County Department of Emergency Services, a position vacated by Dennis Monn in June, brought Eshleman back to Greencastle.

During his career, Eshleman has adopted the philosophy shared by most emergency services personnel.

"Prepare for the worst and hope for the best," Eshleman said. "That's how I look at this job. I'm preparing for the worst."

The latest additions to the department include a decontamination unit, a shower to clean people exposed to hazardous materials and an emergency response kit civilian responders can wear with air purification masks.

The equipment was purchased with a grant by the South Central Pennsylvania Regional Terrorism Task Force.

While there will always be new equipment to try out or plans to update, Eshleman said he hasn't been surprised by any of the responsibilities of the job.

"I've worked in the field so long, there is nothing surprising," he said.

Eshleman said Franklin County has always been well-prepared when it comes to emergencies.

The county is an evacuation site for residents around Three Mile Island and has been forced to update plans on how it would deal with a disaster at the nuclear plant for decades.

"We have to be prepared for worst-case scenarios," Eshleman said. "We have to be ahead of the curve."

Eshleman said it's good to be back in the county.

"I'm looking forward to being progressive and helping other departments when they need help," he said.

Eshleman's wife, Julie, and children Andy, 14, and Sara, 11, are still in New York as he lays down roots again for the family. He has already resumed involvement with the local fire department and is coaching youth soccer.

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