DeSoto County Emergency Services Deputy Director Josh Harper and Capt. Ben McMinn are on the front lines in assisting the county and region during a disaster situation.

Robert Long|DTT

If there is ever an emergency in DeSoto County, who are you going to call?

More often than not, whatever emergency that might arise will require the expertise of a "dynamic duo" of sorts — Deputy Director of DeSoto County Emergency Services Josh Harper and Capt. Ben McMinn, who is with the Urban Search and Rescue Team for Task Force 1, the regional response team in North Mississippi.

While they are not Batman and Robin, their exploits often prove just as heroic.

Harper, who has been serving among the ranks of DeSoto County EMS for the past 16 years, formerly served with the Horn Lake Fire Department and also serves in a leadership role with Task Force 1, which operates under the auspices of the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security.

"We don't wear all the badges on our uniforms that show distinction between one another — we are all on a team," Harper told members of the Rotary Club of Hernando on Wednesday. "We are a unique organization."

Harper and McMinn, along with other team members and volunteers acquire training through the Fire Marshal's Office and courses offered through numerous federal, state and local agencies.

McMinn, a former longtime Hernando firefighter, discussed how DeSoto County EMS is called upon to deal with any number of major natural and man-made disasters such as earthquakes, tornadoes, flooding, structure fires and train derailments and accidents which affect the public health and safety.

Of more pressing immediate matters, Harper said there is a need for more daytime volunteers on local volunteer fire departments.

"Our daytime help is not as active as it once was," Harper said. "Firefighters aren't just responsible for fighting fires anymore.

Yet, McMinn said fires in general are down because there is better awareness and prevention of conflagrations.

"The number of fires are down," McMinn said. "We do a great job of preventing fires."

McMinn and others often visit schools to begin to educate children early on about the dangers of fire.

McMinn said many advances in technology also aid emergency response, such as unmanned aircraft like drones.

Drones are able to be launched when inclement weather prevents helicopter search and rescue.

DeSoto County EMS and the EMA also assist when there are "Silver Alerts" or "Amber Alerts" of missing children and vulnerable adults.

Both Harper and McMinn say their work is rewarding but they need more volunteers among their ranks. Individuals don't necessarily have to be able to undergo rigorous physical training to assist the EMS or EMA.

"If you're someone who enjoys giving back to the community but you can't hop in a fire truck, we still need you," Harper said.

Robert Lee Long is Community Editor of the DeSoto Times-Tribune. He may be contacted at or at 662-429-6397, Ext. 252.

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