Gadsden County Emergency Management Services director Major Shawn Wood gave the county commission an update on his department at last week’s commission workshop.
“The Gadsden County Sheriff’s Office of Emergency Management and the agencies that make up the Gadsden County Emergency Management team are dedicated to saving lives and protecting property of residents and visitors from natural and man-made hazards,” Wood said at the beginning of the presentation.
Wood spoke about the broad range the county’s Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan covers.
The scope of the plan, he explained, includes four major points:
• It identifies the types of emergencies that are likely to occur in the county including minor, major and catastrophic disasters;
• It provides a concept of operations guiding the response, recovery and mitigation activities for all emergencies from the monitoring phase through long-term recovery;
• The plan defines the roles and responsibilities of primary and support agencies in Gadsden County to enhance their ability to effectively respond to emergency situations; and,
• It provides for inter-agency coordination among local, state, federal and volunteer organizations to facilitate response and recovery activities.
Wood talked about the major storms that have impacted Gadsden County over the last 50 years. Three of those were over 100 mph. The last, Hurricane Kate in 1985, was not that long ago and many still remember the damage the storm did to the county.
He added that Kate was a Category-2 storm.
The recent rainy season had created some areas that were flooded, he said.
Wood mentioned that there was now work being done in Chattahoochee at the Crawfish Island with much of the funds for that work coming through Emergency Management.
The next major threat the plan addressed, Wood said, was hazardous materials transported through the county on highways or over train rails.
On a less positive note concerning hazardous material, Wood stated that local resources available to respond to hazardous material-incidents are extremely limited.
The county has only one paid fire department located in Quincy, he said. The remainder of the county is served by volunteer fire departments.
The nearest hazardous materials response team is the Tallahassee Fire Department. Given that hazardous materials are shipped in large volume via several means of transportation, it is prudent to assume that the entire population of the county is vulnerable to this hazard, he explained.
Wood added that this was currently being worked on by Emergency Management.
Wood spoke about other issues including cleanup after disasters and working through short term electricity outages.
In the event of a hurricane or other type of catastrophy, the county has the Red Cross shelters, Wood told the commissioners. They include East Gadsden High School, West Gadsden High School and Havana Middle School.
Tashanda Whaley, administrative assistant and special-needs coordinator, spoke extensively on the special needs shelters and the role of the Cops On Patrol Program (COPS).
According to Whaley, COPS volunteers are working on finding all those people in the county that are in need of special attention; either they are on oxygen or require some sort of special health care.
Sarah Hinson, the head of nursing for the Gadsden County Health Department, said there were only 145 registered for special needs. In contrast, she said there were over 600 on oxygen alone.
“We need to get these people registered,” Hinson said.
Should an event occur, Wood said the Gadsden County Emergency Operations Center (EOC) would serve as the central clearinghouse for information collection and coordination of response and recovery resources within the county. The EOC is located in the Gadsden County Sheriff’s Office at the W.A. Woodham Justice Center.
The EOC is wind-rated for 160 mile per hour winds and is located in an area that is not prone to flooding. The EOC has a 5,500 watt generator and an 8,000 watt generator.
The alternate EOC is located at the county dispatch center at the Gadsden County Jail. The alternate EOC, he said, has phones, faxes, Internet connection and a generator for back-up power.
A number of organizations would be involved with the EOC and include such entities as Talquin Electric, the county’s Public Works, fire departments, Emergency Medical Services, police departments and the sheriff’s department.
There is a Safety Guide that will be available within the next month and will be distributed through the local papers that will have information concerning shelters and other important information to prepare as hurricane season opens, Wood said.