Local News

May 1, 2014

Disaster Awareness Day Saturday aims to get community ready to deal with aftermath

What would you do if a disaster struck here tomorrow?

With the outbreak of deadly severe storms across the nation earlier this week,  now is a great time to be making your own plans on dealing with the aftermath of a disaster.

On Saturday, the Whitfield County Emergency Management Agency will be offering a helping hand to local residents at its third annual Community Disaster Awareness Day.

Several agencies will be handing out disaster-related information during the event, which will be from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Kmart parking lot at 1308 W. Walnut Ave.

“Just like the fire department asks for people to have smoke detectors and a fire plan for their home, we want you to have weather radios and be able to get contacted whenever there is a severe weather warning or threat,” said Jeff Ownby, deputy director of Whitfield Emergency Services.

“Plus we also want to make sure people are prepared for whatever happens for 72 hours after a disaster. If it’s a real bad situation, it might be awhile before public safety can get to them. The most critical people are going to get the most attention early on. You might not be as critical but still have a lot of problems, so we’re hoping that you can be self-sufficient till public safety can get there and help you with the situation.”

Being prepared means thinking about stockpiling the basics like food, water and medications for 72 hours.

“Think about your kids, your pets, what are their needs? And the elderly, too,” Ownby said. “Flashlights, batteries, weather radios, anything you might need after a disaster.”

Amy Cooley, administrative assistant with the Emergency Management Agency (EMA), said that Kroger representatives will be at the event Saturday selling weather radios and helping program them.

Also slated to be on hand are the Mobile Command Vehicle, which is used as the headquarters to oversee the response to disasters by local agencies, as well as the National Weather Service helping program weather radios and answering weather-related questions.

Vehicles and officers from Dalton Fire, Dalton Police and Whitfield County Sheriff’s Office will also be there.

Residents will also have a chance to sign up for the CodeRED severe weather alert system.

“We’ve got about 6,000 people signed up already,” Cooley said, “but when you think about the county having 103,000 people, obviously we still have a lot of room to grow.”

EMA will give away a couple of disaster preparedness kits with key items that would be helpful in the aftermath of a disaster.

Graduates of Whitfield County’s CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) program will also be on hand to talk about the importance of being prepared for disasters, as well as signing up people for future CERT classes.

“We want people to have a plan and a place to go in case of a disaster,” Ownby said, “no matter whether it’s at work, whether they’re traveling, whether they’re home. A little planning can go a long way.”

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