CHICKASAW COUNTY – When bad weather threatens, it is too late for county personnel and emergency agencies to plan what they are going to do.
Chickasaw County communication workers, law enforcement, fire departments and emergency management agencies came together last week for a series of drills to test their response to an emergency.
“Everybody has a job and part of these drills is to make sure everyone knows what to do,” said Linda Griffin, Chickasaw County Emergency Management director. “We look carefully at our plan and we also double check equipment to make sure everything is working properly.”
Griffin said Severe Weather Week is also the perfect time for schools, industry and homeowners to check their disaster plan.
“We have found our schools to be very proactive in putting together a plan and working with us to see if there are gaps,” said Griffin. “Industry and homeowners are a little broader group and have been a little slower to contact us.”
Griffin said the goal of any disaster plan is to protect lives and get the right kind of help on the scene quickly and efficiently.
“We have a lot of factories that have a couple of hundred workers inside,” said Griffin. “Most businesses have a safety person who looks at safety threats inside the building and they need to have a plan should there be a weather threat outside the building.”
Griffin said the City of Okolona recently installed warning sirens in its industrial park. She said her agency stands ready to help any business – large or small – put together a bad weather safety plan.
Griffin urged homeowners to also develop a safety plan. She said the first step is to know when bad weather threatens.
“When we set off the tornado warning sirens it means a tornado has been spotted and people need to take cover immediately,” said Griffin. “Sadly, we only have sirens in our towns and that leaves a lot of people out in our rural areas not knowing what is going on.”
Griffin pointed to the county’s Code Red weather warning system and the purchase of a weather radio are two good ways to stay informed.
“Code Red is free and automatically dials your telephone based on your zip code if we get a weather warning,” said Griffin. “A weather radio can then be turned on to give you more detailed information.”
Griffin said both are activated by the National Weather Service and tornado warning sirens are then activated by the county.
“Technology has allowed weather warnings to become very precise,” said Griffin. “The bad weather that came through in the middle of the night in January actually alerted people in Houlka but let people in the south part of the county sleep.”
Griffin said a test of county equipment indicates everything is in working order.
Griffin said there are 9,000 phones registered in Chickasaw County but only 2,312 people registered with Code Red.
“The county pays for Code Red and all you need to do is sign up,” said Griffin. “We don’t care if you are a school, business, industry or homeowner, there are things you can do to get ready for bad weather.
“This is what Severe Weather Week is all about,” she added. “There are things you can do that can save lives and help you survive a storm. All you have to do is call us. We’re here to help.”
The Chickasaw County Emergency Management Agency can be reached at 448-1012 or accessed via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.