Volunteers reach across miles to help

Wanda English Burnett, Editor

The arm of compassion was long as dispatchers from the Greensburg Police Department reached out to those in similar careers in Greensburg, Kansas.

Dan Mulford, who long has been connected with emergency situations in a variety of ways, presently serves as the Deputy Director of Ripley County Emergency Agency. He is also a dispatcher with the Greensburg Police Department, the group that spearheaded a number of fundraisers to help those in need in Kansas.

After a tornado swept through the small town of Greensburg, Kansas on June 4, the town, that is similar in size to Versailles, was nearly leveled. “There was hardly anything left, I mean no houses, businesses, police, fire, hospital, nothing,” noted Mulford, as he told of the devastation that small community had sustained.

This summer as Mulford pursued his love of amateur radio operating through ‘County Hunting’ he passed through the town of Greensburg, Kansas. He has long been involved with weather spotting and knows what to look for when it comes to severe weather. He also knows the destruction that a tornado leaves behind and is qualified to assess damage after a storm has been in an area.

Mulford served as the link between the two towns with the same name and was able to present proceeds from fundraisers to people in Kansas. He told The Versailles Republican he took a total of $5,000, which was divided four ways with equal parts going to the sheriff’s department, fire, EMS, and dispatchers in Greensburg, Kansas.

“They were so grateful to get the money,” he noted, saying he was there in July, about six weeks after the tornado. Mulford said the town was like a ghost town with only a few people milling about. A make-shift hospital like a scene from MASH, was constructed, and the only indication of the location of the police department were cruisers sitting in front of a trailer. There were many FEMA trailers dotting the landscape that was still cluttered with debris.

The town housed the county seat, just like Versailles, and courthouse employees returned to their jobs to find they didn’t have a restaurant, gas station or convenience store in town. The closest town is about 25 miles away, according to Mulford.

The tornado was 1.9 miles wide and the town is only about two miles wide. Seven people died in the tragic storm with numerous injuries.

Mulford, who has been in the center of many storms in his lifetime, was able to communicate with people in Kansas easily.

Stopping in Greensburg, Kansas, was an honor for Mulford, who with Judy Bultman was on his way to a national convention for amateur radio operators. Being a ham radio operator, Mulford and Bultman enjoy what they call “County Hunting.” This is where the radio operator transmits or receives transmissions from counties all across the United States. That means their hobby takes them to 3077 counties. There is actually an award given for those who complete this task. A variety of additional awards can be obtained through this hobby. “It’s just fun, and you get to see a lot of interesting things, and meet a lot of people,” noted Bultman.

“Believe me, there are not amateurs (radio operators) in every county,” laughed Mulford, who has almost completed the goal of transmitting from every county for the second time. He enjoys the hobby of being a ham radio operator and it has come into good use in the county. Often times when there is a disaster and there is little or no communication, these radio operators take over, helping various emergency agencies with communication. Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACES) volunteers number about 15 according to Mulford and provide valuable service to Ripley County. The RACES Officer for RCEMA is Marilyn Gray.

Mulford has a list of trainings to his credit and has dedicated his life to making sure Ripley County has top notch equipment and training to protect its residents. Sometimes there’s not much you can do, but when the training is available he takes advantage of it. He has been involved with the RCEMA for 25 years, is a Master fire fighter, fire medic and Master Fire Investigator, serving with the Osgood Volunteer Fire Department for 35 years. He is an instructor for the RCEMA, severe weather classes, National Incident Management System facilitator, CSX Railroad emergency training facilitator and much more.

Even with years of experience and thousands of hours of training, Mulford said he was still amazed at the condition the tornado left the sister city of Greensburg, Indiana, in.

The town of Greensburg, Kansas, housed the county seat. The courthouse was one of the few things left in the town after a tornado swept through it in June. This photo was taken in July, about six weeks after the tornado, While it sustained damage, employees could report to work. They just had trouble finding a place to eat, buy gas, or do other business.