By Doris Elmore
It is the first Tuesday of the month, and it is 10 a.m.; if you are connected to the Hyper-Reach Emergency Notification System, you will hear the pleasant voice of Chana Ray, Douglas County’s new EMA Director, conducting a monthly test. Chana was officially appointed to the position on January 20 at a meeting of the Douglas County Board. Her appointment is retroactive to January 1, 2021 and will continue to 2024.
Chana was born and raised in Tuscola and is a 1989 graduate of Tuscola High School. She earned an Associate’s Degree as Administrative Assistant from Parkland College in 1991. Chana started her career with the Douglas County EMA/Coroner’s Office in 2008 as an Administrative Assistant. She served 10 years as a Deputy Coroner and in 2018 became the Deputy Director for EMA under Joe Victor. Joe passed away unexpectedly in May, 2020. Chana was appointed Interim Director after his death and became the permanent director on Jan. 20. In this role she will continue the work that Victor began to plan for emergencies and help keep the county running during disasters. Chana said that Joe was grooming her to take over the position when he died. She says he was the best mentor anyone could have.
If you walk into Chana’s office in the Douglas County Annex across from the Court House, you will find her at her computer hard at work managing grants for EMA. There is a great deal of work involved to make sure the annual grants, FEMA (Federal Management Agency) and IEMA (Illinois Emergency Management Agency) are kept up to the criteria needed.
When younger, Chana was a volunteer with the Medical Reserve Corp and Search & Rescue. When she wasn’t working her other part-time jobs, she would go into the office to work her volunteer job filing and any other odd jobs needed done.
Prior to being hired at the office, she took an EMT class that was taught by Joe Victor. She found out they had a lot of family and friend connections in this field. Joe was the type of person that knew everyone and worked hard for the betterment of Douglas County. As the years passed, Chana worked as Adm. Assistant and then Deputy Director. Joe had made many connections over the years and made sure Chana was acquainted with them as well. She says they are people in the EMA field that she can depend on for help.
Her day-to-day activities include monitoring the grants, which include three exercises a year, for example the tornado exercise in Garrett in 2013.
The last exercise was in 2018. This was a functional exercise train derailment in the middle of Tuscola. This also involved local emergency agencies, police, fire and HAZMAT. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all the agencies, including EMA, have been kept busy and no exercise was done. They continue to work with the pandemic issues.
Chana says they are not able to have full in-person meetings so they continue Zoom discussions on the training exercise plan. Every other week is a Zoom COVID task force meeting. Each task force has a part in the meeting including Douglas County Health Dept., municipalities, EMA, schools, nursing homes, and Brian Moody, President of the Fire Association. The EMA helped in getting the PPE needed by first responders, police, fire and nursing homes.
Chana can not say enough about the volunteers. She adds that they have been a blessing and assisted in so many ways during COVID. She says the departments and volunteers have learned to adapt and overcome.
“There is such a satisfaction in helping people in emergency situations,” says Chana. She enjoys bringing volunteers together to help others. She says their department works closely with the fire department if someone has a fire. They can contact Chana; she will help them get set up with the Red Cross. Whatever her department can do to help anyone, Chana is on top of it.
She credits Joe Victor for teaching her “the ropes” and learning the proper way things should be done. Joe had worked for Douglas County for over 40 years. She is also proud of her family. Chana’s husband, Todd, and her children, Christian and Brooke, and her daughter-in-law, Cheyenne, are all very much emergency service oriented and involved in EMA, Search and Rescue, EMS, Fire Department and Dispatch. She also has a grandson, Asher, who will probably follow in the family footsteps as he grows up.
Chana states, “It is my pleasure to serve the citizens of Douglas County. I enjoy helping them. If I don’t have the answer, I will find it out. Over the years I have been trained by the best. This is where my life has been guided, helping others.” Chana wants to make sure Joe Victor’s legacy lives on. She wants to make him proud. As the new EMA director, she is off to a great start.