ROBERTSDALE – After a year that included a pandemic and two hurricanes, local officials are preparing for upcoming emergencies as the 2021 hurricane season approaches.
The Baldwin County Emergency Management Agency held a stakeholders’ meeting at the Baldwin County Coliseum in Robertsdale on Wednesday, April 7. City and county officials as well as members of community agencies discussed ways to deal with future emergencies.
Zach Hood, EMA director, said agencies need to start plans to work together to deal with upcoming events.
“We need to decide what we’re going to do,” Hood said. “Last year, we had COVID-19, storms, just about anything that could happen, it happened. Now we need to sit down and figure out what we need to do. Where do we need to go?”
Hood said one priority is to update the county’s Emergency Operations Plan. The plan was last revised in 2017. “It’s long overdue, but I want to be sure that as we revise the Emergency Operations Plan, we need to know what we need to do moving forward,” Hood said.
County Commissioner Charles “Skip” Gruber said all of the participants at the meeting have a role in developing emergency plans.
“This is a very important part of our emergency management,” Gruber said. “When we do our Emergency Operations Plan, it’s important to get everything. When something happens in this county, every one of y’all is going to play a role.”
About 50 people took part April 7 in what officials said would be a series of meetings. A survey of participants found that top priorities of participants were emergency management coordination roles and responsibilities, Jenni Guerry, EMA deputy director said.
She said each agency needs to know what it will be called on to do and what members can depend on other agencies to do.
“Each of our jurisdictions has a designated representative,” Guerry said. “All of the information that we share is typically followed through that conduit. And it is their roles to come back to those respective agencies and jurisdictions, training, the opportunity, whatever it may be. So we rely very heavily on those individuals.”
The second priority was public information, Guerry said. She said the EMA will offer training in public information for agency representatives. She said that while some people are nervous about speaking in public, getting information out is important in an emergency.
Guerry said the county has also been working on public notification systems including apps to send out notifications from the EMA.
Resource management was another priority. “We all know that in times of disaster, the challenges we faced during Hurricane Sally was getting resources in, considering there were how many other disasters happening simultaneously across the entire United States,” Guerry said. “We can identify ways to improve our resource management.
Guerry said one goal is for Baldwin County to become as self-sufficient as possible so the are doesn’t have to rely as much on outside supplies.
“That is one of the greatest lessons that we learned,” she said. “Really, let's work hard to do that within each of our jurisdictions and it starts with us.”