Leaders see Albany disaster plan - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Leaders see Albany disaster plan

October 4, 2005

Albany-- After Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, the world saw how unprepared the city was to handle such a catastrophic disaster. A break down in the chain of command and communication left people without the emergency help they desperately needed.

So, if a disaster struck here in Albany, would we be prepared?

Albany first responders learn to assess the danger of a hazard material spill from computers. Training exercises, like this Hazmat class, teach emergency workers how to save lives and property during a disaster. That why's training is a major part of Albany and Dougherty County's local emergency operation plan, or LEOP.

In the aftermath of hurricane Katrina, Deputy EMA Director Jim Vaught updated city commissioners on the emergency plan yesterday. "The city commissioners asked very good questions about what we would do if this happened to us," Vaught said.

The first step: Prepare.
That's where training comes in. In the case of a storm, the EMA uses to media to deliver important warnings and plans to the public. "We have an opportunity to announce ahead of time that we are going to evacuate and to ensure we evacuate."

The second step: Response.
Each city and county department knows ahead of time what its role during a disaster will be, from EMS providing emergency health care to Water, Gas, and Light crews restoring utilities. And 23 southwest counties work together to help effected areas.

Vaught said, "If we needed something like sandbags, another may be designated to bring those to us. Or we may be asked to bring a back hoe for a community to use in their debris removal."

The local government is in charge of emergency response, with GEMA and FEMA ready to step in if necessary. The Emergency Operation Center is opened to field calls and direct emergency works to people in need. There's a GEMA approved list of shelters ready to house evacuees.

The Final Step of the emergency plan: Recovery.

If the President declares the area a disaster area, FEMA sends money and aid. Then the rebuilding of homes, businesses and lives begins. Hopefully a good emergency plan can protect all three.

Albany-Dougherty County must update its emergency operation plan annual and it must be approved by GEMA every four years.

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