EOC conducts drill

Published 5:09 am Sunday, July 6, 2008

Emergency personnel gathered at the Pearl River County Emergency Management office to role play for the hypothetical occurrence of a major tornado in Picayune.

The scenario stated that the tornado ripped through the city at about 8 a.m. and damaged or destroyed about 100 homes and the high school. People were worried about their children and their homes. Emergency personnel then attempted to plot a course of action as best they could.

Various other incidents also arose through the event, some directly related while others had no bearing. Four were reported dead in the scenario, and there was even a report of a run away girl in the county. Since the run away girl was well outside of the city and could not have been associated with the mock tornado that situation was put on hold.

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The coroner was called out to assess the dead and emergency personnel were sent to handle, or come up with ideas to handle, situations including leaking gas lines, searching destroyed homes and most of all reuniting children with their parents.

The problem some emergency personnel saw with the exercise is that the whole thing was based off a text document. Picayune Deputy Fire Chief John Mark Mitchell said that it is hard to plan a course of action since every situation is different and has to be handled as such. When the department responds to a fire the supervisor assess the situation and then the team handles it accordingly, Mitchell said.

There was a high level of cooperation with in the various departments. Sheriff’s Department Deputy Chief Frank Vaccarella said deputies would be available for assistance in such an incident.

Emergency Management Director Danny Manley said that the most concrete thing that was established involved using designated locations for parents to pick up their child. It is important for parents to keep in mind that emergency personnel would first have to relocate the children to get them out of harm’s way before parents can pick them up. Vaccarella suggested using multiple locations, each designated to have certain grade levels, to reduce congestion. Parents would be notified of each grade level’s location.

Recently the county installed severe weather sirens through the county. Manley said that the only time residents will hear those sirens will before severe weather. If the siren is heard there is only one thing for them to do.

“If they go off seek shelter cause bad weather is coming,” Manley said.

Good shelter points include a sturdy home’s or structure’s hallways or closets. Mobile homes are not included in that category, Manley said.