County adds deputy emergency management coordinator

Photos by Tom Rivers: Justin Niederhofer, the new deputy director for the Orleans County Emergency Management Office, is pictured by the fire training facility at the EMO on West County House Road in Albion.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 23 April 2020 at 12:40 pm

ALBION – The Orleans County Emergency Management Office has a new deputy director who is very familiar with emergency services in the county.

Justin Niederhofer, 40, is the Carlton fire chief and a fire investigator for the county. He started the new job last week. Justin’s brother Andrew and their father, Jim, also served as Carlton fire chiefs.

Niederhofer is a 20-year veteran of the Air Force with 11 years of Active duty and the past nine years in the Reserve. He was working for the U.S. Department of Defense, leading a team of 10 in overseeing manufacturers with Defense contracts. That job took him all over upstate, and sometimes to other nearby states.

Niederhofer welcomed the chance to stay closer to home for his new job, and make local emergency services his priority.

“This is where my passion truly is,” Niederhofer said on Wednesday at the EMO. “I’m looking forward to working with everyone in the county.”

Niederhofer has a bachelor’s degree in emergency management from the American Military University in Charleston, WV, and is close to finishing a second degree from the university in fire science management.

Dale Banker, the director of the EMO, welcomes Niederhofer to the office. Banker and administrative Lori Grube have been running the two-person office as the work demands have grown exponentially in recent years.

The Emergency Management Office used to be primarily focused on the fire service. A fire training tower is next to the EMO center on West County House Road. The EMO coordinates 10 to 20 training classes each year for local fire departments.

Justin Niederhofer holds one of the Hanes masks that arrived on Wednesday. He is connecting with local stores to have them available for free to Orleans County residents.

The office, however, increasingly is focused on preparing for and responding to emergencies. This year looks like there will be another state of emergency along the southshore of Lake Ontario. The EMO coordinated the delivery of sandbags, AquaDams and other supplies to help Yates, Carlton and Kendall fight back against flooding in 2017 and 2019. It already has ordered sandbags this year and is prepared to do more to help the towns and residents preserve their property.

Besides coordinating the supplies, the EMO tracks the expenses for local governments and submits the paperwork to FEMA and other state and federal agencies for reimbursements.

The EMO also has a lead role in the emergency communications system, and is spearheading a $6 million upgrade with new radio towers in Albion, Kendall, Lyndonville and Holley.

The duties are immense, and Banker last summer asked the County Legislature for an addition to the staff. That process was underway before the EMO assumed the added task of ordering and distributing personal protective equipment to local first responders and health care workers. Banker said Orleans was the last of the county EMOs to only have two full-time staff.

Niederhofer started the job last week and he said he has “hit the ground running,” working to get N-95 respirators, gloves and masks to frontline workers. He has personally fitted county employees with N-95 respirators, getting the right fit for members of the Sheriff’s Office, corrections officers, probation and the Department of Social Services.

On Wednesday, 14,500 cloth masks arrived from Hanes and Niederhofer is working to get those to stores around the county where they will be given away for free.

Banker said Niederhofer is well organized and brings lots of energy to serving the public. His position is funded by state grants.

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