A local emergency management director is influencing emergency response policies at the state level.

Dennis Gilstrap, Crawford County Department of Emergency Management director, recently became president of the Arkansas Emergency Management Association.

Members of the AEMA work at the state and local levels to establish and maintain professional emergency response standards, influence and guide public policy and legislation, and provide training and education in preparedness, response, mitigation, and recovery.

Gilstrap was elected in 2012, and served two years as president-elect before moving into the position as president. The term of president is two years.

Gilstrap is proud and excited to serve in the position, he said.

"It’s something that in your career, if you’re in an emergency management career, it’s an honor to be able to hold that position and to make emergency management more effective in the state," Gilstrap said.

An important focus of the AEMA is to keep communication and cooperation going between the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management and local emergency responders, Gilstrap said.

"That is a priority of mine, at the state level and the local levels, and to actually improve upon our ability to respond and take care of our citizens," Gilstrap said.

Gilstrap said the AEMA provides inspiration for professionalism in all areas of emergency management, initiation and development of professional and social relationships among members, and active promotion of legislation beneficial to the field.

AEMA members also solicit support from state and local governments for programs, provide united efforts toward association goals, promote a positive image of emergency management throughout the state, and provide a forum for ideas and resolving obstacles, Gilstrap said.

As president, Gilstrap is chair for both the AEMA meetings and its committees, he said. Besides the six officers, the association board includes two representatives from the ADEM and from the five state areas: southeast, southwest, northeast, northwest and central.

Mike Dixson, Benton County Emergency Management Agency deputy director, is the representative for the northwest area, in which Crawford County is included.