Emergency officials discuss plans to handle pandemic

Published 12:00 pm Friday, August 2, 2013

Manley said there are about 52,000 people in Pearl River County and discussed a plan to set up closed and open point of dispensing sites across the county.

A closed point of dispensing site is established to serve the needs of a specific group. As an example, Manley said if Manna Ministries was established as a closed point of dispensing site, members of Manna Ministry would go to that site to receive care or necessary medications during a pandemic. This would reduce the number of people going to open point of dispensing sites. Open point of dispensing locations would be for any member of the community that had not been directed to a closed POD site.

Manley discussed turning health care facilities, churches, schools and Pearl River Community College into closed points of dispensing sites.

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Communications was an important topic at the meeting with Tammy Johnson of the county road department expressing concern about communications and developing new ideas of how the road department will interact with contractors.

Dale Miller, the head of the road department, said he is working on developing a priority road plan to send out to the Emergency Management Agency liaisons for their input. The plan would prioritize which road repairs are made if a road sustains damage during a storm.

Manley said he spoke with Mississippi Department of Health Protection Director Jim Craig, who suggested emergency personnel have a satellite phone or radio, including 700 MHz radio, ham radio and a high band radio for communication during emergency situations.

“Whatever you do for the county, plan on not having cell phones and see if you can operate without cell phones,” said David Moore with Emergency Management Agency.

Manley focused on the first responders and their importance during emergency situations.

“We can’t do our job without the first responders and the firefighters,” Manley said.

He said because of the volunteer firefighters, the county saves about $5 million a year in insurance premiums. Many of the volunteer fire departments have top-notch equipment and highly trained personnel on their crews.

Triple A Ambulance liaison, Lori Fairly told the group during the meeting that they had recently acquired three new ambulances and expect to receive two more in the near future.

Tim Bomar with the Mississippi Department of Health said the county would be receiving three AMBUS vehicles, each of which can carry 12 patients at a time and is stocked with medical kits. This will allow for the transportation of more patients if needed.

Scott Arinder with Pearl River Valley Electric Power Association, which services the northeast corner of the county serving about 300 customers, said the company is 98 percent complete with digitizing its system. He said customers can now go on the Pearl River Valley Electric Power Association web site and check the status and location of power outages.

He said when crews are restoring power, repairs start at substations and then work outwards. For customers in Pearl River County, the substation is in Columbia.

If a Category 2 hurricane were to hit the county, Arinder said power can be out for 10 days and for Category 3 and above, power could be out for a minimum of 21 days.

Jeff McClain, Pearl River County Utility Authority Director, said all of the utility authority’s generators have been maintained and are functioning. He said there is a generator for every elevated water tower.

Also at the meeting, Manley said:

— He and Chase Munro with Red Cross stocked all of the FEMA Safe Rooms with hygiene kits, nurses’ kits, shelter kits, cots and blankets.

— He wanted to revive the Emergency Management Agency’s business preparedness, which involves a representative going out to different businesses to discuss the business’ emergency plan and to evaluate what they would need to operate during an emergency.  

— He would like to sign up for a program that would send out necessary weather information, such as tornado warnings and watches to people’s computers and smart phones. Right now, the county uses sirens, which Manley sees as outdated technology that only warns a small number of people. He said each siren cost about $16,000 and last year alone the agency spent $2,400 to replace batteries.

— He is interested in establishing a Local Emergency Planning Committee, which responds to hazardous material incidents within the county.