New Program Snags

By: Stan Torgerson
By: Stan Torgerson

A new program called "SMACK," designed to allow state officials to call one city or county to respond to another in case of natural or man made disasters, has hit a stumbling block in Lauderdale County.

At issue is who would receive up to $100,000 in new emergency equipment to support the program.

Meridian's chief administrative officer, Ken Storms, said the mayor and city council believe it should be the city.

"The equipment should be in the hands of professional emergency providers," said Storms. "Cities have a professional staff on board whether it be in police or whether it be in fires, especially in the fire area. In the counties they have a system of volunteer fire departments. They're very good people, but they're not professionally trained. They are not full time and they don't know how to utilize this equipment, which would be available under, in addition to the SMACK agreement."

Counties would disagree, that volunteer firefighters are professionally trained, just not full time.

The city has refused to sign the agreement. The director of Mississippi emergency management said he would like that to change.

"I will continue to work with the city of Meridian and Lauderdale County to try to find some common ground that we can reach over there to develop a capability," said Latham, "because I think we need that response capability because of the size and the population over there."

Latham agreed most counties and many cities do not have trained hazardous material technicians available.

"So what we've got to make sure is that we not only provide the money for the equipment but that we have qualified people who can actually respond," Latham said. "Because if you buy the equipment and they don't have the training and they don't maintain the certification then we're putting people in harm's way."

Latham said he will continue to work with the city and the county in an attempt to reach an agreement between the two.


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