County emergency plan still under revision

Published 12:08 am Sunday, July 8, 2007

NATCHEZ — The Adams County emergency response plan is functional but going through some revisions, County Civil Defense Director George Souderes said.

A month into hurricane season, the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency is reviewing various parts of the plan and suggesting changes, Souderes said.

“The plan is 100 percent usable,” Souderes said. “We just have to get little kinks out of it that MEMA wants to see like they want it.”

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Most of the changes involve grammar and phrasing, he said. The plan is in a digital format, and when finished, will be distributed on disks to emergency responders, such as police and fire departments. For example, the Red Cross would be in charge of organizing shelters.

“Before I make a bunch of disks and hand them out to primary agencies, I want to make sure it’s right,” he said. “I don’t want to have to go back and do it again.”

The updated plan will replace the 10-year-old response plan, which local critics said was full of holes.

If a Hurricane Katrina-like storm hit tomorrow, the responders would still know the roles they would need to play, he said. Several agencies were involved in providing input for the new plan.

“We met three or four times with some departments about what they wanted to see in that particular plan,” Souderes said. “They had a part in making the plan come together.”

Souderes said he was disappointed MEMA didn’t have the revisions ready Friday.

“I thought by (the end of the week), MEMA would say, ‘Here’s the corrections,’ and we could fill it in and start next week to burn copies,” he said. “We are still waiting on them.”

But Souderes was quick to say the state agency had been working “diligently” to help with the county plan.

Across the river, Concordia Parish is preparing for the next hurricane season, Emergency Preparedness Director Morris White said.

The Gateway Center under construction will incorporate a Red Cross evacuation shelter, which will house up to 1,000 people, White said.

Since the parish is concentrating on the new shelter, disaster preparedness is in a transition period, he said.

“We don’t have a lot of shelters in Concordia Parish right now,” White said. “We would pass a lot of (evacuees) through to bigger shelters north of us.”

Many of the churches that served as shelters during and after Katrina would help with the larger shelters in Adams County, he said.

An alternative, using school gymnasiums as shelters, could be hot and dangerous if a hurricane spun off tornadic storms, he said.

When the larger shelter in the Gateway Center is operational, it will be able to house not only evacuees but also parish residents in case of a local disaster, like a tornado, he said.

“Once we get that built, we’ll be wide-open, then,” he said.