County planning emergency preparedness events

Published 4:02 pm Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Hurricane season is here and county emergency departments are working to ensure that residents educate themselves on how to be prepared for the next big storm or other emergency.

HOPE Begins Here Campaign is one such effort. While an official date has not been set for the event, county emergency personnel met with Rob Clay, associate director of Convoy of Hope, to gather some information.

The push would include about three separate events to get faith-based organizations, businesses and families involved in preparing for a large scale emergency. Clay described to the group how the events could incorporate all those elements to provide people with the necessary information before a disaster strikes, and how they can work together after such an event. Preparation before hand is key, he said.

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“Usually when a disaster happens, it’s too late,” Clay said.

The campaign would involve three events: a faith-based symposium, a business preparedness seminar and a family preparedness festival. A similar festival was held in Picayune just after Hurricane Katrina. Clay said the symposium and the seminar could be combined into the same event if necessary.

After the pitch from Clay, county emergency personnel came up with ideas how and where the events could take place. Danny Manley, Pearl River County Emergency Management director, said he would like to try to have the events sometime in October, but no official date has been set.

Other topics such as sheltering, distribution of food and supplies and faith-based and emergency organizations working together to avoid duplication of services also were discussed.

“The more resilient you are, the faster you recover and bounce back from a disaster,” Clay said.

Manley asked the faith-based organizations to have a liaison at his office during emergencies so they would know where aid is being distributed. That will cut down on duplication of efforts from emergency services.

Allen Hickman, pastor for Resurrection Life Worship Center, expressed some concerns with the government restricting access to hurricane damaged areas. After Katrina, faith-based organizations brought much-needed supplies and assistance to the county. If incoming traffic is regulated, then Hickman fears that aid will be cut off. Manley said the primary reasoning behind regulating that traffic is to cut down on looters and fly-by-night construction. While Manley agrees that it is an issue to work out, he said he would like to think that the government agencies regulating the incoming traffic would allow the appropriate help to enter a storm-damaged area.

Emergency officials will need to work out venues and times before an official announcement of the events will be made.