York County Emergency Management Agency Deputy Director Megan Arsenault, center, was recently named Emergency Manager of the Year by the Northeast States Emergency Consortium. She is shown here with York County EMA Director Art Cleaves, left, and Maine Emergency Management Agency Director Pete Rogers, right. Tammy Wells Photo

ALFRED — Megan Arsenault was working  as an animal care technician in Maine in 2011 when a tornado struck Joplin, Missouri. It was an EF5 tornado, the strongest on the scale, with winds in excess of 200 m.p.h. Its swath through the city was a mile wide. It killed 158 people, according to online accounts, injured more than 1,500 and caused $2.8 billion in damages.

Arsenault was deployed to Joplin to help the city’s animals. During her two weeks in the tornado-ravaged city she worked in the “cat warehouse,” helping care for hundreds of cats — feeding them, changing litter pans, and keeping the place clean.

“It changed my life,” she said.

She “got bit by the disaster bug,” Arsenault said, and began volunteering with York County Emergency Management Agency’s Incident Management Assistance Team upon her return to Maine. She went to work for the agency in 2015; about a year and a half ago, she was named the agency’s deputy director.

On Wednesday, Sept. 21, Arsenault, 35, was named Emergency Manager of the Year by the Northeast States Emergency Consortium, an all-hazards agency lead by state EMA directors of Maine, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

The award was presented Sept. 21 at the York County Commissioners meeting by Maine Emergency Management Agency Director Pete Rogers.


Rogers noted that Arsenault served as the county’s incident commander throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, leading the initial response by working in conjunction with the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention district liaison and the emergency directors of each York County municipality.

“(She) facilitated two area-command calls weekly and personally wrote a comprehensive situation report every night to ensure all towns were informed of the daily impacts of COVID-19 infections as reported by the Maine CDC,” said Rogers. ”In addition, she maintained liaison with the Maine CDC and MEMA director on a frequent basis to ensure report information from the towns was reaching the highest levels in Maine, taking on these responsibilities while maintaining all other aspects of her role in the county EMA.”

York County EMA Director Art Cleaves took particular note of Arsenault’s regular updates to the municipal directors.

“The one item that stands out in my mind more than others is the importance Megan placed on getting the latest COVID information out to the local communities on a ‘daily’ basis,” said Cleaves. “She would stay up till 9 p.m. or later just to be sure the latest information got sent out, and we heard feedback from communities on how much they relied upon getting the reports during the height of the pandemic.”

When COVID-19 vaccines became available, the Maine CDC asked York County to set up a high-volume clinic. Arsenault became incident commander of that operation, which employed 120 temporary workers, which to date has administered more than 75,000 shots — and the operation continues. The county opened a testing lab to help the state, with Arsenault becoming a qualified lab technician and then training a dozen others to operate the lab, Rogers pointed out.

She helped the city of Biddeford deal with the 2021 Halloween storm that tore out part of a river wall embankment along the Saco River, and Rogers noted, the city may receive as much as $5 million in reimbursement from the federal government for repairs.


As well, Rogers said, Arsenault oversaw an update to the county’s multi-jurisdictional Hazard Mitigation Plan, which required coordination with York County’s 29 municipalities and intense management of the coordination with MEMA and FEMA to bring the planning process successfully to a close.

“(She) has proven to be a master of emergency management coordination as outlined by the significant accomplishments mentioned, and has been able to achieve success because of her ability to live by the most important attribute of emergency management — solid and trusted relationships from the local to the state and federal levels,” Rogers concluded.

“Your work has really shined,” York County Manager Greg Zinser told Arsenault.

“It’s nice to have recognition,” said York County Commission Chair Al Sicard with a nod to the deputy EMA director. He said during the pandemic the importance of the county’s emergency management agency became clear.

“Joplin really changed my life,” said Arsenault. “I had no plans to go into emergency management. It opened my eyes to it, and I am passionate about emergency management to this day.”

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