CullmanTimes.com - Cullman, Alabama

Top News

April 28, 2013

‘Self responsibility’ is key to surviving after disaster hits

Predicting when and where the next natural disaster will strike in Alabama is like playing a jackpot slot machine at the casino.

It's almost impossible.

But should another storm system sweep through the state — like the one that caused massive devastation on April 27 two years ago — in the near future, local Emergency Management Agency officials and responders feel lessons learned have helped better prepare them.

"We learned the government can't take care of everyone immediately," Cullman EMA director Phyllis Little said. "We all have to have our own responsibilities to be prepared and be aware of what’s going on, and know that we're on our own for at least the first 72 hours, because there's not going to be a FEMA truck there passing out bottles of water, or Red Cross  handing out hot food. We've got to be sure we're ready to take self responsibility."

Within the past year, EMA director Phyllis Little has worked closely with an outside contractor to rewrite the agency's long-term Emergency Operations Plan (EOP), which was recently completed.

"We reduced a number of pages," Little said. " We feel it's a more functional plan for us, one that we put together as a community, and it works for what we need here."

In addition, the EMA is also beginning work to move forward with $91,330 worth of mandatory upgrades to all 42 of the county's weather sirens. The upgrades come as pard of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) new narrowbanding requirements that mandates all emergency equipment be operating at a narrower frequency. Work is expected to begin within the next few weeks, with the switch over expected to take place toward the end of summer.

"We're not going to do half and take a chance if there is bad weather," Little said. "It's working fine now, so we're going to wait until we have a good window of opportunity and then have them all switched over at once."

More and more storm shelters have been popping up as well, as small towns have been working with EMA and Cullman County Economic Development to fund them through hazardous mitigation grants. The City of Hanceville has three, while the City of Good Hope recently finished installation of their two. The town of Garden City has five,and Vinemont has two. Within the last several months, the towns of Baileyton, Fairview, and West Point were approved to be funded.

"We're seeing more and more go into place," Little said. "By next spring, we hope we'll have shelters in more than half of our communities."

With technology playing a role in the way people receive weather information, the EMA also unveiled a mobile app earlier this month that will allow members of the community to access up-to-date information relating to emergency management, local weather, and emergency response agencies. Should another natural disaster hit the app would be utilized to provide disaster-related information for recovery.

"This is not intended to replace primary means of emergency notification," Little said. "We never intended for it to replace weather radios. This is just an extra addition we're providing, and another way for people to get alerts."

Below is a list of key items Little encourages people to have in an emergency kit.

Text Only
Top News