EOC prepared for disasters

Published 7:00 am Tuesday, September 2, 2014

When natural disasters strike South Mississippi county Emergency Operation Centers stage valuable resources and emergency personnel.

Pearl River County EOC Director Danny Manley said his EOC is trained, exercised and experienced in dealing with disasters by using the Incident Command System. By using that system EOCs can effectively communicate and work with federal and state assets to find resources and use the correct terminology to ensure the proper assistance is received.

Prior to Hurricane Katrina those procedures were not very well practiced, Manley said.

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Since Katrina, the county holds monthly meetings at the EOC office to practice mock disaster scenarios.  While hurricanes are the main focus, the scenarios can also include other disasters, such as chemical spills from trains or tanker trucks.

Additionally, dealing with Katrina has produced experienced contractors who know how to clear roads of downed trees and about the proper disposal and monitoring of debris cleanup, Manley said.

To ensure communication with state and federal contacts is maintained during a disaster the county has implemented a state-wide system known as the Mississippi Wireless Interoperability Network. Manley said the MSWIN system is designed to withstand a Katrina level storm.

Several backup communications systems were also implemented post Katrina. Manley said the backup systems will ensure communication is maintained should one fail.

To keep power up as long as possible power companies have invested in clearing trees away from their lines.

If the power does go out, many county facilities have installed backup generators, as have water companies and some private businesses. Finding a gas station with power was difficult in the first couple of weeks after Katrina. By having a generator on hand businesses can reopen sooner. In instances where a generator is not available, Manley said the county has portable pumps that could be used for public use, when the EOC is not in rescue mode.

Because of Katrina most of the population of Pearl River County has dealt with a major hurricane, so Manley feels they know if they should evacuate or not when another storm approaches.

“That’s the biggest thing that I can’t tell people, is if they should stay or go,” Manley said. “We need people who have the ability to help with cleanup to stay here to help get back to normal. The people who do not have that ability should consider evacuation so as not to deplete resources.”

Residents with special needs may consider evacuation to a northern part of the state where they can get the assistance they need, Manley said.