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“Remarkable people:” two county employees serving from the shadows face emergencies with experience and dedication



Tracey Porter and Lisa Buchanan
Tracey Porter and Lisa Buchanan
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Tracey Porter and Lisa Buchanan, according to their supervisor, are exceptional employees who have been working for years to coordinate the best responses to emergency situations for citizens around Vicksburg and beyond.

In the lower level of the Vicksburg Courthouse, you will find the rooms devoted to Emergency Management and with it, its team, lead by one John Elfer. This team’s main priority according to Elfer is “to save lives.”

When asked what the mission of the department was, Elfer stated, “Our mission is to assist the other organizations and make sure that everyone’s on the same ‘sheet of music,’ that we’re not dislocating services, and that we have a unified command set up.”

“I always tell people, ‘I’m not in charge of nothing’; I just coordinate,” said Elfer.

Elfer further explained one of the main roles of his team in emergency management, connecting those in need to various resources such as the “Sheriff’s Office, the Police Department, the Fire department, County Fire, but also other nongovernmental organizations like the Red Cross, Salvation Army, and United Way,” said Elfer. “We work closely with all those folks.”

Elfer went on to praise his team, “Between those two, they can find just about any resource that an agency here would need,” said Elfer, referring to Tracey Porter and Lisa Buchanan, “They work in my office. They’re there all the time, even when I’m not. I couldn’t do it without either one of them.”

John Elfer

Warren County Emergency Manager John Elfer. (photo by David Day)

According to Elfer, Buchanan grew up in Vicksburg and was a dispatcher some 25 years ago when they first met. Since joining Emergency Management in 2019, Buchanan has helped face a number of infamous disasters, including the Backwater Flood of 2011 where she served as the Volunteer Coordinator.

“Lisa organized all of the volunteer groups that came to help the people at Eagle Lake… She helped them get registered for FEMA, and then she organized some volunteer groups that did some demolition and rebuilds,” explained Elfer.

Buchanan continues as the volunteer coordinator when needed. During Covid, she organized the vaccine site, where, according to Elfer, “They did almost 20,000 vaccinations; She was also able to organize a meal for all the people working out there every day.”

“And Tracey, she can do it all,” said Elfer, moving on to praise Tracey Porter, from Redwood, who serves as Deputy Director, working with emergency management, permitting, etc.

According to Elfer, Porter has been a part of helping with every disaster and large scale man-made disaster since 2011, when she joined the team.

Porter worked directly with the Backwater Flood as well, working “response mode
out in the field,” according to Elfer who added that she is “not only in emergency response, but is also a certified firefighter and a certified EMS responder.”

Elfer elaborated further on Porter’s contributions: “Tracey ran the operation center at the mall. She runs the EOC (Emergency Response Centers) when needed. She does all the damage assessments and she reports all that to FEMA and MEMA.”

Beyond his team, Elfer gave additional credit for the success of his department to like-minded city officials: “Both the City of Vicksburg, and the Board of Supervisors have been very supportive of Emergency Management.”

Beyond their duties, such as assisting in Rolling Fork after the tornado disaster (where they stayed multiple weeks lending a hand.), Emergency Response also helps with anything they can. Said Elfer, “We get into all kinds of stuff that ain’t even our lane. People call wanting something, and we just figure it out.”

Elfer couldn’t praise Porter and Buchanan enough for all their work. In summation, Elfer concluded, “They are just really remarkable people.”

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