Special Report

Published 11:39 am Friday, July 8, 2005

By Staff
Hurricane Dennis threatens
By Adam Prestridge
During times of disaster, the American Red Cross and local emergency service agencies are there to help as residents pick up the pieces.
Friday morning, the West Escambia County Chapter of the American Red Cross met in their temporary facility located at The Atmore Advance to go over their game plan prior to and following Hurricane Dennis.
"Right now we are not opening because it's a category 4, but that could change," Alabama Gulf Coast Chapter of the American Red Cross disaster chairman Sandy Zuiderhoek, who was on hand during the meeting, said. "We have brought in a lot of materials for post landfall. We have cleanup kits, comfort kits and heater meals. The Red Cross has sent in trucks to Mississippi, Alabama and Florida for pre-staging."
If Hurricane Dennis continues to strengthen as it moves through the Gulf of Mexico, no local shelters will be open until the storm passes through.
"We'll only have one shelter and it's at Escambia County Middle School, but it will not be open if we have a Category 4 hurricane," West Escambia County Red Cross chairman Charlotte Boyle said. "The Red Cross will not let us open up. We have no buildings that withstand that kind of wind force, at least we don't know. None of our buildings have been approved by an engineer."
As for emergency services within the city, they all plan to be operational throughout the storm.
"We're going to be here," Fire Chief Gerry McGhee said. "I'm calling all my men here and have them on standby. We'll be here to help the Red Cross and the ambulance services. We'll be on call until it's over."
Patricia Still, owner of Atmore Ambulance Service, and Glenn Kelley, operation manager for Kelley's Ambulance, also plan to stay operational throughout the storm.
"We'll run as long as the situation is safe enough for us to run," Kelley said.
Both Kelley and Still said that they will pull their ambulances off the road when wind speeds reach 45 mph or higher. Still said they would try to provide assistance after the winds reach those speeds if it a local emergency.
"Maybe local, if it's an emergency, if any of the homebound people need assistance, all they have to do is give us a call,"
Both ambulance companies also plan to bring in extra crews to assist with added workload.
"I'll have two crews with backup," Still said. "It's just according to which way it comes and how bad it is because we cover Florida also. My crew is going to be at the shelter."
"Depending on what time the hurricane comes in, probably Saturday morning, we'll have three complete crews," Kelley added. "It will stay that way depending on the call and call volume."
Once the storm moves out and the shelter opens, Boyle made it clear that those seeking refuge need to bring their medication and any other special need items.
"We would like people to bring their own medication for at least three days and any special diet foods they need," she said. "We are not setup as a medical shelter and we would like for them to find some other place if they have any special medical needs."
Boyle also encourages people to bring other items such as pillows; blankets; baby formula, bottles, food, diapers and wipes; snack foods; drinks in non-breakable bottles and something to entertain adults and children such as books and games.
"If anyone is on oxygen or dialysis they need to go ahead and evacuate as soon as they can," Zuiderhoek said.
Small coolers will be allowed at the shelter, which has a 318-person capacity, but phones will not be available for use.
If evacuees headed north need assistance finding a shelter, call 1-866-GET-INF.

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