Civil Defense

Did you know very few houses in Memphis were prepared for the aftermath of any kind of disaster? Remember Bert the Turtle? Ever hear where Memphis was listed on the Russian nuclear target list? This episode deals with the civil defense and emergency management of Memphis and Shelby County. Joe & I are honored to be joined by four of the leading experts in emergency management and preparedness. We also discuss CERT and today’s state of readiness for our beautiful city.

To read more about how you can become involved with CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) check out their website here.

Here’s Bert the Turtle’s “Duck and Cover” film recorded and released in 1951.

Our panel for this show includes:

Robert R. Latham Jr

Robert R. Latham Jr. retired as the Executive Director of the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency on February 1, 2016.  He served in that position during the period January 2000 until July 2006 under Governor Ronnie Musgrove and Governor Haley Barbour and again from January 2012 until February 2016 under Governor Phil Bryant.  Mr. Latham served as an emergency management and homeland security consultant in the private sector from July 2006 until January 2012 specializing in subject matter expertise to clients in the development of programs to assist local, state, federal and non-government organizations, and the private sector in all-hazards preparedness, response, recovery, and mitigation activities.   After Sept. 11, Mr. Latham was appointed by Governor Musgrove as his Homeland Security Advisor where he served until April 2004 overseeing the state’s homeland security activities including the development of the state’s first homeland security strategy, managing more than $65 million in homeland security funding and developing the state’s regional response capability thru the fielding of nine regional response teams. 

As MEMA Director, Mr. Latham was responsible for overseeing more than 65 governor’s state of emergency and the preparedness, response, recovery and mitigation activities for 16 presidential disaster declarations, including Hurricane Katrina on Aug. 29, 2005.  During his tenure as MEMA Director, Mr. Latham served on the Central US Earthquake Consortium (CUSEC) Board of Directors and Chairman of the Board for two terms, Chairman of the Mississippi Wireless Communication Commission for two years, Chairman of the Mississippi Coordinating Council for Remote Sensing and Geographic Information Systems, and a member of NEMA where he served as Chairman of the Legislative Committee and the Response and Recovery Committee.  He is currently an independent emergency management and homeland security consultant.


Claude Talford

Claude Talford is the retired Emergency Management Director for the City of Lakeland, Tennessee. He was the director there from 2008-2015. Claude has 30 years of disaster preparedness and fire service experience. This includes his tenure as the Director of the Memphis/Shelby County Emergency Management Agency from 2004-2008.  Mr. Talford’s experience spans responses to actual events such as Hurricane Katrina to coordination of and participation in several local and statewide disaster exercises.  His tenure in local government also includes 25 years as a firefighter with the Memphis Fire Department (1979-2004) during which he was instrumental in starting several pilot programs for the Department.  Under his leadership was the final construction of the Urban Search and Rescue team (Tennessee Task Force 1); Mr. Talford led this Team to the Pentagon following the attacks of 9/11.  Claude was promoted through the ranks and retired as Deputy Director of the Department.

Claude Talford has been affiliated with several agencies both locally and nationally such as the Area Maritime Security Council, Local Emergency Planning Committee, National Fire Service Incident Management System Consortium and FEMA’s USAR program.  Claude’s education and training includes the University of Memphis, Southwest Tennessee Community College, National Fire Academy, and the Emergency Management Institute.


Tim Curtis

Tim Curtis is a Certified Emergency Manager from DeSoto County Mississippi.  He owns and operates, TEC Safety, which is a Public Safety Consulting Firm based in Lewisburg, Mississippi.

Tim Curtis began his career in emergency services in 1981 as a disaster volunteer with DeSoto County’s Civil Defense Office.  In 2014 Tim retired from DeSoto County as Deputy Director of DeSoto County’s Office of Emergency Services. He has served in a variety of positions within the Civil Defense / Emergency Management / Public Safety arena including Emergency Manager, Emergency Planner, Law Enforcement Officer, Firefighter and Emergency Medical Technician-Paramedic. 

While serving as Deputy Director of DeSoto County EMA, Tim helped to form Mississippi’s first local Citizen Corps Council. The DeSoto County Citizen Corps Council remains one of the largest Citizen Corps teams in Mississippi. Tim also served as vice-chairman for Mississippi’s Citizen Corps’ State Council, which helps to create other volunteer disaster teams throughout Mississippi. 

Tim graduated from Northwest Community College in Senatobia with an Associate’s degree in Banking and Finance. He is a Certified Emergency Manager (CEM), Certified Healthcare Emergency Professional (CHEP), Certified Healthcare Safety Professional (CHSP) and a Certified Emergency and Disaster Professional (CEDP).  A Nationally Registered Paramedic, Tim serves as an EMS instructor in both Mississippi and Tennessee.  

Today, Tim lives in his hometown of Olive Branch with his wife, Sandra and their two children. He remains active in the community by volunteering his time as a Paramedic, Firefighter, Search & Rescue Technician, Amateur Radio Operator and Civil Defense Historian.


Clint Buchanan (picture & bio coming)





Research team: Joe V Lowry, Tim Curtis, Clinton L Buchanan
Moderator: Mark White
Editor: Trish Gully
Producer: Mark White 

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