Pearl River County prepares for hurricane season

Published 2:48 pm Friday, June 5, 2009

Emergency personnel and a number of other public officials met Thursday morning to brush up on their emergency action plan and test the communication equipment at the Pearl River County Emergency Operations Center.

Should another devastating emergency arise, such as a powerful hurricane, shelters have been established in Picayune and Poplarville. In Poplarville, Pearl River Baptist Association member Carl Myers said the First Baptist Church of Poplarville and the Middle School will act as shelters. Those shelters combined can hold about 300 people.

In Picayune, Manna Ministries and either Roseland Park Elementary or South Side Elementary will act as shelters. Myers said Manna Ministries is capable of housing about 300 people while either of the schools will be able to accommodate about 150 people.

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While the faith-based organizations will have the ability to prepare food, the American Red Cross is expected to provide for that need, Myers said.

Generators, about $1.5 million worth, are stationed in the county should they be needed, said David Moore, PRCEOC Communications coordinator. The only bad side of having those generators will be keeping fuel in them. Moore said it would take about 300,000 gallons of diesel fuel a day to keep all of the generators running.

“The bottom line is we have a lot of generators, that the good news. The bad new is we have to feed them,” Moore said.

Picayune Fire Chief Keith Brown said the city has a fuel plan that involves holding fuel at a secure location in the city. An agreement with KeithCo will keep the city with enough fuel for an emergency situation.

Pearl River County Emergency Management Director Danny Manley said that while it is a good thing the county has those generators to help keep government and emergency services going after a storm, there is a need in the private sector. Unfortunately there is no grant money aid to assist the private sector, or local businesses, with securing a generator.

Even if a storm enters the Gulf of Mexico and does not directly hit Pearl River County there will still be the issue of contraflow to deal with. With that in mind, businesses need to prepare to deal with the increased demand for services and security that contraflow brings. Manley suggests that some businesses could put out portable toilets to help accommodate evacuees who only want to relieve themselves. Not only will that provide a public service, but it would keep people who only want to use the bathroom from crowding stores.

Another contraflow plan may involve proposals that are in the works to redirect some traffic through areas of Picayune to ease congestion during contraflow.

Manley said he discussed with the businesses about hiring contractors to bring in extra restrooms, security, fuel and other commodities.

Manley has formed a survey to find out which businesses plan to stay open and would be willing to provide services during an emergency. Those that would like to participate in the survey over the telephone can call the EOC at 601-795-3058. Manley also can provide them with information that would help them prepare for the increased need for services, such as securing generators, fuel and extra restrooms.

Two Public Information Officers from the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency, Jeff Rent and Greg Flynn, spoke at the meeting about the importance of providing accurate and timely information to the media. Since both had years of media experience, they shared some tips with the group, such as answering questions in a calm and cool manner, and providing accurate information to help citizens make informed decisions and save lives.

Participants at the meeting then tested the phone and Internet capabilities of the EOC office and found that more land lines will be needed to handle the increased volume of phone calls. The satellite Internet that supplies the center with web access appeared to be in working order.