Name changes coming soon

Published 12:00 am Monday, October 14, 2002

Susan Carpenter is continuing to maintain a busy pace these days.

As director of Covington County Emergency Management Agency, and E-911, Carpenter and her staff are constantly in search of ways to Covington County a better, safer place to live.

Carpenter said recently the staff of the EMA has been in discussions over several projects which she hopes will be implemented in the near future.

"On Wednesday, we had a big meeting with our Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC), and what we're having to do is have a lot of plans for state funds involving weapons of mass destruction and we have to have plans throughout our county," said Carpenter. "I get emergency personnel and leaders from the entire county and look at the county as a whole to see how we need to prepare as a county, instead of individual towns or agencies."

Carpenter said her agency has selected three different projects to focus on.

"We are discussing a HAZMAT team for our county, and this would be for if any company or industry had some type of (chemical or material) truck come through and there was a spill," said Carpenter. "We could have someone we could send out (to the scene of the spill) and if someone was injured, we could get them out and we could decontaminate them and then send them to the hospital. We are not worried about any type of cleanup, but we just want to get in there and take care of the matter and get out."

She said the EMA has combined with the Covington County 22nd Judicial Drug Task Force (DTF) on this project.

"(The DTF) already has (decontamination ability) with all of the drug labs they have to go to, so we're kind of combining these two projects together to help the county," said Carpenter. "The Andalusia and Opp fire departments are working closely with me, but those two agencies cannot afford to have a Hazmat team. You are talking about major equipment. Just one Level A suit (which guards against major chemical exposure) is at least $700. We are moving in that direction and everything is going well. We have a committee and sub-committee that is starting to work on that, but we are really going to have a lot of help from the different cities (in the county) and the industries to help get that started."

The next project involves participation with local schools.

"We are making plans for our schools," said Carpenter. "There are plans already for the schools (in case of some type of emergency) but we want to look at each school, and the safety of each school individually. We might look at putting cameras in a school or maybe just doing something different at another school. We have a committee for that also.

"Another project involves a communications committee, where every emergency personnel member in the county can communicate on one frequency, where we can all talk at one time," she said. "If I have something I need to tell to all the emergency personnel, we can get on this one channel and talk to the whole county, and also to the counties surrounding us. The biggest aim for our state agency is we need to open our eyes and looking at agencies outside the county as well as inside the county. All of these plans that we have will not go anywhere without money. These are things we're working on if the money becomes available. We know we are going to get funding (from the state), but we don't know how much it is going to be at this point."

Regarding E-911, Carpenter said she is aware there has been some confusion regarding new addresses, and said she hopes that the confusion will be cleared up in the near future.

"Andalusia has not started using their (new zip code) but on September 11, Opp and Wing began using new zip codes (36467 for Opp and 36483 for Wing)," said Carpenter. "We had sent (the address information) to the Address Management System (AMS) since they are over all of the post offices and we had sent that to them in December of last year and things did not work out well as they were understaffed. They are the ones who who get the post offices to use (the new addresses)."

Carpenter added that on Sept. 25 Florala started using its new zip codes and on Oct. 2, Red Level started using its new code.

"Hopefully by the end of this month, Andalusia will start using (its new zip), if everything starts going well," said Carpenter.

It is also being required now that residents who live on Highways 55, 134, 137, 52 and 54 specifically include "Al. Highway" in their addresses while residents who live on Highways 331, 29 and 84 are being asked to specifically include "US Highway" in their addresses.

"Everyone in the county should have an address, as we address everyone," said Carpenter. "There may be some that have not pulled in a trailer, or maybe somebody sneaked in on us and they need to come into the office and get an address. A year, though, from all these dates, there will be no routes or boxes. You have a year to use both your route and both your 911 (addresses) until everything is changed over. For months we've been hearing from (county residents) wanting to know when they would be using new addresses, and we would be telling them one thing because that is what we would be thinking it was, and then that would fall through. Everybody has been very patient, though. Of course some people don't like change either."

She said otherwise things have been progressing smoothly with E-911, which merged with the EMA

two years ago.

"We have some well-trained dispatchers and things have been going good," said Carpenter. "We still dispatch for all the fire departments (in the county) and all of the EMS (units), but the only police department that we still dispatch for is Florala."

She said Covington County is a good place to live due to the cooperation of neighborhood agencies.

"I find that (emergency agencies) work really well together," said Carpenter. "Even when it comes down to situations such as the sheriff's department pulling out their dispatching, when it gets down to the nitty-gritty, everybody works together and tries to get the best for the county."

Carpenter noted that her agencies are continuing to try and help in the control of mosquitoes due to the West Nile virus which has plagued the nation this summer, especially in the south.

She also reminds residents that during the first Wednesday of each month at 10 a.m and 6 p.m., emergency sirens are tested, and if there happens to be bad weather the day of testing, the test will be postponed until the next Wednesday. The tests last for two minutes and during a disaster or severe weather, the tests last for three minutes.

The first tone (siren) is used during severe weather if Covington County is placed under a tornado warning.