Village prepares for disaster

By Dedra Cordle
Staff Writer

The village of Urbancrest is taking preliminary steps to establish an emergency preparedness plan.

At its regular meeting last month, council discussed a draft created by members of the health and safety committee that would establish guidelines for village officials and residents to use in case of an emergency.

There are multiple steps, said councilwoman Alicia Wiggins, which village officials should take in order to be prepared to lead should a natural or man-made disaster occur.

“One of the first things we need to do is to educate ourselves about which hazards are more likely to occur in the area,” she said.

She noted examples such as power outages, tornadoes, flooding, gas leaks and harsh winter conditions as events that are most likely to occur in the region.

“We have to know how to plan for these things,” she said.

Another step that officials should take, she added, is to establish a response team where members are delegated responsibilities and tasks to oversee to make operations run more smoothly.

“We have to be organized in order to make sure our residents are aware of what is happening and where to go,” said Wiggins.

She said they need to identify a location or multiple locations that could be used to house residents for a longer duration of time.

“We need to have a place or places where people can go to eat, get warm, charge their phones, have access to emergency services and find out what is going on.”

She suggested reaching out to local churches to see if they could fill that need.

Another point in the draft was the establishment of a greater social media presence for the village.

“Like it or not, social media is a means of communications and those communications can spread rapidly,” Wiggins said.

She added that the village should be more active on Facebook and Twitter while also noting the importance of the village’s official website.

“That site has to be updated,” she said. “It is not user friendly.”

Wiggins said she often hears from residents who try to communicate with officials via email but the system they use often bounces the messages back.

As for the residential aspect in emergency preparedness, Wiggins spoke of state and county efforts to improve health and safety such as SMART 911, which gives emergency medical services access to your medical information, home information, emergency contacts and description of pets and vehicles when an emergency call is placed. Residents must opt in and can share however much or little information as they desire. Additionally, Wiggins also spoke about residents becoming volunteers with the county’s Community Emergency Response Team (CERT). She said that program would train residents in basic disaster response skills, such as fire safety, light search and rescue, team organization and disaster medical operations.

Wiggins reiterated that these guidelines are just suggestions at this point and could be eliminated or modified pending additional feedback. She requested community input regarding the preliminary emergency preparedness plan.

Mayor Joseph Barnes Sr. said that there were many aspects of the draft that he liked and added that he would like to see a plan implemented soon.

“We have to have something in place should an emergency situation arise again,” he said, referring to the weather event six years ago that created lengthy and wide-spread power outages. “We can’t go through something like that again without having a good plan in place.”

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