Emergency management continues with plans for next catastrophe

Published 5:08 pm Friday, September 22, 2006

Plans are still underway to ensure that if Pearl River County experiences another catastrophic event people are prepared and supplies are available.

Back up county-wide communications remains an issue with the Pearl River County Emergency Management Agency, said Emergency Management Director Bobby Strahan.

The EOC is ironing out some issues, such as 250 National Guardsmen will provide security at shelters, communications will be maintained with HAM radios and supplies of enough MREs and water to provide about 8,000 meals have been stationed at a 100,000 square-foot building in Purvis for two years, Strahan said. Those supplies, when needed, will be brought to the airport in Poplarville and the new city hall in Picayune. Two distribution points have been designated at the fairgrounds in Poplarville and Friendship park in Picayune, Strahan said. Other points of distribution will be volunteer fire departments and faith-based organizations.

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Transportation in and out of the area was a problem last year with all the downed trees. Picayune Fire Chief Keith Brown has noticed that tree cutting along the interstate has slowed or ceased in some areas. Those trees could pose a problem if another storm comes, he said.

“That was one of the biggest problems we had was getting resources in,” Brown said.

Another problem that the county faced with Hurricane Katrina last year was the sudden influx of evacuees coming in to the county and using up resources and filling up shelters. Poplarville Police Investigator John Kramer wanted to know if there was a way to limit the number of people who come into the area off the contra flow.

“We’re pretty much at saturation point here,” Kramer said.

Strahan said each city and the county would have to make requests to the Mississippi Department of Transportation to take such action. Then barricades could be set up at interstate off ramps to keep people from coming into the area. However, such an operation would limit the travel of local residents, Strahan said. An alternative would require supplying local gas stations owners with enough fuel to accommodate out-of-state evacuees, while keeping extra tankers stationed nearby to refill the fuel supply.

While the power is out, those local gast stations could use battery-operated fuel pumps that Strahan demonstrated months ago. They run off a car battery and are capable of monitoring how much fuel is dispensed in gallons while pumping at a rate of eight gallons a minute, he said. One of the pumps would cost about $1,300, Strahan said.

Brown hopes that the local store owners will take responsibility to have enough fuel and to have a means of dispensing the fuel, such as with a generator or one of the battery operated pumps.

“I think there’s some responsibility of the store owner to have a generator and supply of fuel,” Brown said.

Strahan said he sent a letter to all local fuel vendors to determine what they could do to keep fuel available to the public, but few have replied. So far, Strahan said he has found cooperation from Keithco, the Logan’s One Stops, the Conoco in Poplarville, the Jr. Food Store in Poplarville and the BP in Picayune. The remaining fuel vendors in the county have not responded, he said.

In order to keep the public informed, the two AM radio stations in the county, 1320 WRJW and 1530 WRPM, said they could link their stations together to achieve county-wide coverage in emergency situations, Strahan said. This would ensure that the public stays informed about where supplies are available and keep citizens up to date on local news, he said.

The Emergency Management Agency in Pearl River County meets again at their office in Poplarville on Oct. 26. It will be their last meeting until after the first of the new year.