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Officials say emergency plan works

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

(Photo)
Jennifer Lucas
For close to a decade, several Clay County agencies have been working on an emergency preparedness plan for the community in order to ensure the safety of residents.

Recent events put that plan into action and, according to officials, it is working.

Local Public Health Emergency Preparedness Coordinator Jennifer Lucas told The Brazil Times Tuesday the plan was enacted following recent flooding in the county.

"I think our plan is very effective," Lucas said. "People need to be aware that Clay County can be affected by a disaster.

"I think (the plan did work). We had our call-down tree. I think it went very well."

On June 7, floodwaters ravaged Clay County and the surrounding areas. Lucas, in conjunction with several other county agencies, enacted the county emergency preparedness plan.

Lucas said she arrived at Clay County Emergency Management Agency Director Bryan Husband's office by 7:30 a.m. as floodwaters continued to rise.

"I worked along side emergency management," Lucas said. "I went in and assisted Bryan."

Husband agreed with Lucas, saying the plan worked accordingly.

"People from other agencies knew whom to call," Husband said.

Husband said the key to the preparedness plan is constant communication.

"The main thing is we had our point of contacts," he said. "All in all, it worked well."

Lucas added the health department has focused on constant communication with other agencies regarding the preparedness plan. For example, she said immediately following the flooding, the health department put a plan into action making sure all those who were in or around floodwaters could receive a tetanus shot.

"You just tweak it," Lucas said of the plan, "to fit the needs of that event."

Lucas said the event, which was put into place via national mandate nearly 10 years ago, was originally for bio-terrorism disasters. She said several county agencies began working on the plan before Sept. 11, 2001.

However, the plan has grown larger to include several other possible disasters.

Both Lucas and Husband said there are more than 10 functions included in the plan, which involves several county agencies.

As the plan has grown, Lucas said state officials have mandated which areas needed to be worked on specifically and that several training exercises have taken place.

"We have been doing exercises for quite a while," Lucas said. "But you have to train before you can exercise.

"We were starting with nothing. It takes time to bring people together. We tried to write these plans to be real plans. We're just now getting to the point where we think our plan will function."

While the plan appeared to work properly during the recent flooding, Husband said it also gave county agencies an idea of how to further tweak it.

"This brings out all the shortfalls," he said, "so that we can make it better the next time . But we didn't have a lot of (shortfalls)."



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