EMA director talks hurricanes with Red Cross
By By Kerry Whipple Bean
When Hurricane Ivan hit, Atmore residents as well as the rest of Escambia County went days without power, water or the opportunity to go to the grocery store or a gas station.
If another storm hits, Escambia County Emergency Management Director David Adams said, businesses and government officials are more prepared.
Several fuel stations and grocery stores now have generator power, as do all of the water systems in the county, Adams told board members of the East Escambia chapter of the American Red Cross at their annual meeting Monday.
When Ivan swept through Escambia County in 2004, the area had not seen such a powerful hurricane this far inland in years. Many people were without power for weeks, and it took time for businesses to be able to open.
Since then, Adams said, about a dozen gas stations in the county have invested in their own generators, and a number of grocery stores have auxiliary power, too.
Most water and sewer systems in the county were able to get grant funding to help.
Adams said he is pushing the EMA to be more proactive in preparing for storms.
Adams and other emergency officials have participated in two drills so far this year, including communications drills to test the use of satellite telephones and Internet in the event that traditional lines are down during and after a storm.
But Escambia County still has concerns to address in terms of preparation.
The county has identified four shelters, with a total capacity of 600 people, but needs more, Adams said. And it isn’t known how much wind capacity those shelters could withstand, he said.
But Adams and others are working toward improving the county’s shelters.
Adams is a member of the state’s Sheltering and Mass Care Task Force, which is looking at different options for sheltering needs during disasters. Part of the plan includes using two-year college campuses around the state, although neither campus in Escambia County would be used during a storm.
The Atmore campus of Jefferson Davis Community College is set aside as a staging area for power companies, while the Brewton JDCC campus has too many trees to be considered safe during a storm, Adams said.
Without Red Cross, Adams said, EMA could not fulfill its responsibility in sheltering residents after a storm.
Red Cross board chairwoman Janie Hamric said she also appreciated the support of Red Cross volunteers.