Emergency responders discuss preparations for hurricane season

Published 12:00 pm Friday, June 7, 2013

The need for a special medical needs shelter in Pearl River County was the main topic of discussion at the meeting of emergency responders on preparations for the current hurricane season.

The meeting took place Thursday morning at the Emergency Operation Center.

Emergency Operation Center Director Danny Manley said it is difficult for the county’s Emergency Operations Agency to define who is a special medical needs patient.

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“Different people have different ideas of what special medical needs are,” said Lisa Brown, director of Pearl River County Hospital.

State regulations require special medical needs shelters be staffed by a registered nurse at all times. A nurse can be difficult to provide because during disaster situations because most registered nurses are required to report to their hospital of employment. Patients staying at the shelter also are required to bring a caregiver.

During Hurricane Issac, the Pearl River County Hospital was successful in implementing a plan that eliminated the need for a special medical needs shelter, Brown said. The hospital assessed each patient that said he or she needed special medical attention and then the medical staff at the hospital decided if the patient could be sent to a regular shelter or admitted to the hospital during the hurricane, Brown said.

Current construction at the hospital may affect the Emergency Management Agency’s decision to set up a special medical needs shelter. Construction on the hospital may limit the number of patients the hospital can admit during a disaster.

Brown said that in the case of the county being in the direct path of a hurricane, both the hospital and nursing home would be evacuated and there would be just a few staff members available at the hospital.

Manley said there are three new community safe rooms for people in the county who are not able to evacuate. Each building is 10,000 square feet, can hold about 890 people and is able to withstand 200 mph winds. The buildings are located at Pearl River Central High School in Carriere, Picayune Memorial High School and at the Poplarville Fairgrounds.

On another subject, Chief Keith Brown of the Picayune Fire Department said that sharing information between the city, county, state and federal levels needed to be improved so that information can get back to the local level daily.

“At the end of the day, it is my responsibility to make sure those people have a dry roof over their head,” Keith Brown said.

Emergency Operations Center Public Information Officer Tony Bounds said for the public to check Pearl River County EOC Facebook page for the most up to date information on any emergency situation.

Also discussed at the meeting, Manley said:

— The Pearl River County Sheriff’s Office will provide security at the shelters and Emergency Operations Center. If contraflow is put into effect, 12 back-up officers from around the state will be provided.

— Long-term shelters will be available at Manna Ministries, Poplarville First Baptist Church, Picayune First Baptist Church, Poplarville Middle School, and Picayune’s South Side Elementary School.