County disaster plan refined

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Under a new emergency preparedness plan, residents will have three location options to obtain supplies 72 hours after a natural disaster occurs, county EMA director Susan Harris said Tuesday.

This year, forecasts call for a near-normal hurricane season, with a 70 percent chance of nine to 15 named storms. Of those, four to eight are expected to become named storms and one to three, major hurricanes.

Harris said emergency officials have coordinated a plan that, if needed, would allow residents to pick up emergency supplies like water and tarps 72 hours after a disaster strikes at locations in Andalusia, Opp and Florala without having to leave their vehicles.

Locals should assemble their own emergency preparedness plans now, Harris said.

“Last year, we in Covington County were fortunate that we did not have a major tropical system impact our county; however, we must be reminded that Covington County is still vulnerable to hurricanes and the need for preparedness,” Harris said. “Storms cost some people their life and cause billions of dollars in damages. Because awareness is the key to public safety, Covington County EMA encourages the citizens of Covington County to get prepared now – don’t wait. Get hurricane kits together now.”

Harris said residents should be prepared with supplies for up to 72 hours of food and water, as well as a relocation plan for those living in mobile homes or low-lying areas.

“There is no way to predict when a major hurricane could strike,” she said. “You should be able to make quick decisions regarding where you will go, how you will get there, what you will take, and when you will leave.

Harris said after that 72-hour window has expired, and supplies are needed, they will be available at the Andalusia Kiwanis Center, Opp’s Ace Hardware parking lot and at the Florala Volunteer Fire Department. Crews will man the distribution sites, where volunteers will load needed supplies into one’s vehicle.

“State officials saw after what happened in north Alabama how important a response plan is,” Harris said. “This is ours. Communication is harder to get out after a storm, which is why we’re giving this information out now.

“Those in mobile homes should take special note,” she said. “If you live in a mobile home, this home is particularly hazardous during hurricanes no matter how well fastened to the ground. Please seek alternative shelter.

“If you live in a mobile home park, you should find out from the manager where you should go in the event of a hurricane – but don’t wait until you really need the information,” she said. “Ask them on a nice day! Mobile home parks may have a designated shelter, or a steel reinforced concrete laundry room. If they don’t, you need to find another substantial structure. This does not include local business or shopping centers. It is your responsibility to get prepared and find a safe place for you and your family.

“Make these plans before a storm strikes,” she said.

Those needing assistance in getting prepared are asked to visit the EMA office at 272 Hillcrest Drive or contact them at 334-428-2670.