Area EMA directors use previous disasters as lessons to plan ahead

MONROE COUNTY, Miss. (WCBI) – Previous natural disasters have provided lessons for emergency response in Monroe County.

From the tornado that ripped through Smithville in 2011 to the Hamilton disaster in 2019, Emergency Management Directors in the area have learned what works in the aftermath of a disaster.

Making a disaster plan is one thing, but when you have to put that plan into action, that’s when you learn what works and what doesn’t.

For area EMA directors, those lessons have sometimes been hard.

But they have made responders more aware of how to get recovery started and keep it going.

It doesn’t matter how long you plan for a disaster. It’s different. You learn from every disaster you have that hits your county.

Over the years, Monroe County has had its share of natural disasters.

And while they have much damage to clean up and places to rebuild, EMA Director Donna Sanderson said they have a list of priorities.

“First is power and water. We are still out of power in a lot of the city of Amory but we do have the water restored on most of it. That’s the first thing we do is try to get people a place to stay and the ones that have a place to stay have to have power and water,” said Sanderson.

Chickasaw County EMA Director Linda Griffin knows that in times like this, one of the most important things to do is lend a helping hand.

“With the widespread damage, Monroe County’s got and Chickasaw was fortunate that they didn’t have any damage so that freed me up to come to give mutual aid to the emergency management office over here because there are so many meetings and resources she’s got to meet with,” said Griffin.

Previous tornadoes highlighted the importance of safety for residents.

That’s why several areas in the county have invested in community storm shelters.

“Since 2011, Monroe County has a dome at Hatley, Hamilton, and Smithville and in August of ’22, they opened a grant for the individual storm shelters.
Several people applied and it was over 900 in Monroe County alone that applied and we are still waiting on the go-ahead to get those,” said Griffin.

And while tragedy has a way of bringing people together, cooperation over a long period of time is important.

Griffin said you want to make sure to rotate relief workers and resources.

“There are a lot of teams that want to come to Monroe County but you know they are trying to organize them so they don’t all come at one time and when these resources here get used up there are some more on stand-by that are ready, willing and able, and wanting to come,” said Griffin.

Because of the possible cold temperatures tonight, Sanderson said that the Old National Gaurd Armory building will be opening its doors for people to have a warm place to stay for the night.

County leaders also want people to remember that when clearing trash or debris it’s important to make sure items get to the roadside in specific piles because this will help with the speed of cleanup.

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