County prepared for hurricane season with community shelters
Published 7:00 am Friday, July 24, 2015
During times of imminent danger and natural disasters, residents of a community are often left with little to no safe shelter should their residence prove to be unfit to withstand the high winds of Mother Nature’s most powerful hurricanes and tornadoes.
Fortunately, for residents in Pearl River County, in 2007, county officials applied for a FEMA grant to build community safe rooms throughout the county, Pearl River County Emergency Management Agency Director Danny Manley said.
According to FEMA’s website, a safe room is defined as “an interior room, a space within a building or an entirely separate building designed and constructed to provide near absolute life-safety protection for its occupants from tornadoes or hurricanes.”
“The main reason for a safe room is to provide shelter from hurricanes and tornadoes to those who cannot leave the area,” Manley said. “The safe rooms also provide a safe place for first responders to go.”
There are three community safe rooms in the county and are open to residents of Pearl River, Stone and George counties, Manley said.
The safe rooms are located at 501 Laurel St. in Picayune, on Hwy. 11 N. in Carriere next to Pearl River Central High School and in Poplarville at the Hwy. 11 and Hwy. 26 intersection behind the EOC building, Picayune Fire Chief Keith Brown said.
Each building is built to FEMA 361 design and features concrete walls, impact resistant glass, a generator and a self contained water, sewer and fire suppression system, Brown said.
The buildings were made to be self-sustainable for up to seven days, he said.
During times of danger, the safe rooms are manned, Brown said.
Picayune Fire Department Training Officer Barry Lee teaches a class on how to operate the shelters, which are open to the public.
Paperwork has to be kept on everyone who enters the safe room, so Lee teaches trainees how to keep a record of people who come and go. He also introduces shelter rules and how to implement them.
They are also taught how to meet the needs of the people in their care, Lee said.
Depending on the severity of a dangerous situation and each individual case, a stay at a safe room can either be short-term or long-term, Lee said. People are encouraged to bring enough supplies for about three days, he said. In some instances, there is food available at the shelter and the American Red Cross might provide meals.
Brown said prior to 2005’s Hurricane Katrina, the county had not dealt with a disaster of that magnitude.
“Now we have these safe rooms and that’s one thing, as an emergency responder, I can check off my list,” Brown said. “It’s a great asset to our community.”