Preparing for the Worst

September 11, 2001 is a day that will never be forgotten. In fact, as part of an effort to respond to any other possible attacks in the future, emergency and health care officials from throughout the southeast gathered at the Pearl River Resort this week to discuss how to be better prepared.

In terms of efforts in Mississippi, Gov. Haley Barbour said the state is now shifting more of the responsibility for handling this type of preparedness to the State Department of Public Safety.

"It's crucial that state law enforcement recognize that most policing is done by sheriff's departments and police departments and that the state law enforcement's principal function, other than the Highway Patrol, the principal function is to give expertise and resources to local law enforcement, so they can be more effective," said Barbour.

According to Barbour, most of Mississippi's $29 million anti-terrorism budget this year is coming from the federal government. That is being used for several things including:

  1. An initiative to promote the state health department working closer with law enforcement.

  2. Establishing a state center for National Disaster Support training to further train doctors and nurses on how to respond to a bioterrorism attack.

  3. Creating medical reserve corps units.

"This particular type of medical unit is established by volunteers and helps them respond to disasters within their community," said Laura Wiginton of Mississippi's Bioterrorism and Response Division.

While officials from Mississippi and Alabama agree that both states are ready in case of an attack, they also agreed that working together is key.

"In these days where hospitals are stressed and underfunded and physicians are stretched thin, it's difficult to stand on your own," said Ray Sherer of the Alabama Center for Emergency Preparedness.