EMA director: Be responsible, prepare

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Although many Alabamians are still recovering from the latest outbreak of tornadic weather, hurricane season begins June 1, and local emergency officials want residents to be ready.

Susan Harris, director of the Covington County Emergency Management Agency, said the county was not affected by a major tropical storm in 2013, but stressed that is not a reason for locals to let down their guards this season.

“We must be reminded that Covington County is still vulnerable to hurricanes and the need for preparedness,” Harris said. “Storms cost some people their lives and cause billions of dollars in damage. Because awareness is the key to public safety, EMA encourages the citizens of Covington County to get prepared now.”

Harris said one of the most important ways residents can prepare for hurricanes is by simply not putting off tasks like making an evacuation plan and putting together emergency kits.

“Before a hurricane strikes, residents should review preparedness plans and don’t wait,” she said. “Get hurricane kits together. Be prepared with supplies of up to 72 hours of food and water.”

In the event that supplies are still needed 72 hours after a storm, Harris said items will be requested from the state, and residents can find them in several locations across the county, including: the Kiwanis building in Andalusia; the Ace Hardware parking lot in Opp; and the volunteer fire department in Florala.

Harris also cautioned that knowing hurricane evacuation routes isn’t enough, adding residents should also know where they can seek out sturdy shelter, should the need arise.

“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. “Safe shelter is the most important part of your plan. Please make plans now, if you do not live in a safe place, to go to a family member’s home, neighbors or check to see if your local church will be open.”

Harris also added residents should not count on public buildings as shelters, as there are currently no publicly designated structures in the county that serve as storm shelters. She said knowing shelter options is especially important for residents living in mobile homes.

“If you live in a mobile home, your home is particularly hazardous during hurricanes, no matter how well fastened to the ground,” she said. “Seek alternative shelter.”

Harris said many mobile home parks include steel-reinforced laundry rooms or other safe structures. She added that local municipalities and churches will often open shelter locations during storms, but said being personally prepared is the best way to remain safe during a hurricane.

“It is your responsibility to get prepared and find a safe place for you and your family,” she said. “Make these plans before a storm strikes.”

Harris said an official prediction for this year’s season has not yet been released by the EMA, but added even a positive forecast is not a reason to relax during storm season.

“Prepare for the worst each time,” she said. “Preparedness planning now could save your life.”

Residents requiring help getting prepared may visit the EMA office at 272 Hillcrest Drive or call at 428-2670.