Responders Administer Self-Test

By: Wendy Suares Email
By: Wendy Suares Email

Responders Administer Self-Test

Category 3 Hurricane "Zora" bears down Mississippi's coast, 72 hours away from landfall.

It's only a mock storm, but hundreds of state employees and responders treated it like the real thing.

"We're trying to make sure all the state agencies understand, what are the things they need to be thinking about? What are the shelters we need to have open tomorrow? When are we going to do evacuations?" said Mike Womack, director of the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency.

Pre-landfall response was in full swing at MEMA headquarters in Jackson and at local emergency operation centers along the coast Tuesday. But on Wednesday the drill will fast forward to the days after the storm hits.

"The focus will change to search and rescue, maintaining law and order, distribution of commodities, just a whole different set of challenges," Womack said.

Mississippi recently made major changes to its hurricane response plan, and this is the first chance to test those changes.

Emergency management directors from the central part of the state are acting as evaluators, judging what works and what doesn't.

"We're seeing more coordination between agencies. We're seeing more people who don't have to look around and say, 'who should help us out on that' because of the plan in place," said Larry Fisher, Hinds County's
emergency management director.

But they do expect to find flaws in the response. It has been 20 months since Hurricane Katrina, and with a new hurricane season fast approaching, they hope to correct those flaws in time.

"This is where we need to find out where our weaknesses are, in a test, not in an actual event," Fisher said.

Womack said the state and local responders are doing their part, but citizens need to take personal responsibility in getting themselves prepared for hurricane season.


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