Are you ready for a disaster

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 21, 2007

Natural disasters can and do happen. The question is, are we ready?

Butler County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) Director Bob Luman spoke to the Greenville Lions on Monday concerning the county's efforts to prepare for disaster situations.

&#8220We are lucky,” Luman said as he held up a booklet on hurricane preparedness in Alabama.

&#8220We are lucky because we have these booklets, we still haven't had (a hurricane) yet and we've got this to help us get prepared.”

Luman shared several booklets currently available through the EMA Office to help Butler County citizens prepare for everything from hurricanes to the threat of a bird flu pandemic.

&#8220There is a lot of common sense information in these to help you prepare for things you might be affected by. It shows you what you need to teach children and grandchildren about disaster preparedness,” Luman said.

The EMA director said meetings concerning the possibility of a flu pandemic were underway in the county.

&#8220This is a battle they are fighting in southeast Asia right now with the bird flu, that could become a worldwide battle. One hundred people have contacted the disease and 80 out of the 100 have died. We were told originally there was a 50 percent fatality rate, so you can see the seriousness of this illness,” Luman said.

While no one wants to think of a pandemic happening on the level of the Spanish influenza, a highly virulent strain that felled many worldwide shortly after WWI, Luman said such a possibility should be considered and prepared for.

&#8220We suggest people begin to consider in their businesses, for example, how would we operate if several people were out with this flu? We've also visited nursing homes and hospitals and asked them the same thing,” he said.

&#8220You also have to consider the closing of schools and what measures would be taken to continue the education of the students.”

While a vaccine has been developed that could be effective against the bird flu, &#8220there are so many strains and variants, it may or may not work,” Luman said.

During the incubation period of the bird flu, an infected person may show no signs of carrying the illness and unwittingly pass it on to other people.

&#8220This is a serious thing. It's not going to happen tomorrow, but it could happen next year,” Luman stressed.

In regard to the &#8220normal,” less virulent flu bugs that hit each winter, the EMA director encouraged everyone susceptible to such illnesses, including the elderly and chronically ill, to be sure and get immunized.

One thing being considered, Luman said, is a &#8220dress rehearsal” for a pandemic flu vaccination.

&#8220We would pick a point of reference, and ask people to come there and get their regular flu shots. We could see how well things go when we are not in an actual panic mode.”

As with any potential disaster, Luman encourages all households in Butler County to plan in advance.

&#8220You know how you stock up with items before a hurricane.

Well, you would need to do the same thing in terms of food and water supplies in the event of a pandemic. Canned food - something you really like - is best, as you may not have gas or electricity and you may be eating it for a while (if under quarantine),” Luman said.

In the event of emergencies, the local EMA has already established Greenville High as the county's special medical needs shelter, with Lomax-Hannon College in Greenville, Georgiana's First Baptist Church and the Community of Christ Rec Center in McKenzie as the county's regular emergency shelters.

While the state has already stockpiled ice, MREs, and water throughout Alabama, Luman said it was &#8220still best to be prepared in your own home.”

Copies of the &#82202007 Hurricane Preparedness Guide,” &#8220In Case of an Emergency: Are You Ready?” and &#8220How You Can Prepare for a Flu Pandemic” are available through the county EMA office. For more information, contact Bob Luman at 382-7911.