A servant’s heart: Tracey Porter is first in line when disaster strikes

Published 9:00 am Friday, March 31, 2023

Tracey Porter is no stranger to being a public servant.

While she spends her spare time serving with the Volunteer Fire Departments at Valley Park and in Cary, Porter’s day job is serving as Deputy Director of the Warren County Emergency Management Agency.

Porter said she got her start with the county EMA just “looking for a job,” but that she quickly developed a passion for helping others.

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“I wasn’t looking for a job in emergency management, ” Porter said, but 12 years on she can’t imagine being anywhere else. “But it’s always about keeping the public safe and keeping them informed with the best information. You would think these days that would be easy to do, but it’s still not.”

Alongside EMA Director John Elfer and Volunteer Coordinator Lisa Buchanan, Porter said the last few years put their office to the test. From the 2019 Backwater Flood to the COVID-19 pandemic, the many facets of managing an emergency situation and crisis response were tested.

Porter said she always knew her job was important for public safety, but it wasn’t until 2020 that she realized the gravity of the emergency management agency’s role in the county.

“When we were locking the doors and putting masks away (during COVID), that’s when it hit me,” Porter said.

But the most important part of crisis response, she said, is the support of the community.

“We live in a community — a world, really — that is really good about wanting to help,” she said. “What I do on a day-to-day basis is nothing special, but it all comes together when we have an emergency of any type.”

Many of the day-to-day operations in her office involve the documentation of events and aftermaths, preparation for emergencies and coordination between partnering agencies.

The more preparation they do ahead of a disaster, she said, the smoother operations will go if and when disaster strikes.

Still, it all amounts to what Porter (who admitted she hates talking about herself) said is having a servant’s heart.

“My husband always says, ‘Tracey makes sure everyone’s fed before she fixes herself a plate and sits down,'” she said. “But I don’t think of things that way. It’s just how I am.”