County Mayor urges citizens to be prepared for disasters
By Jeff Whitten
Weather experts had predicted this tornado season to be worse than normal, but thankfully McNairy County has so far avoided any major damage.
But because of the county’s location within an area prone to tornadic activity and near the New Madrid Fault, the question is not if we will have a natural disaster strike close to home, but when.
County Mayor Jai Templeton is confident of the county’s level of disaster preparedness, but is concerned that households should have a disaster plan and stockpile three to seven days’ worth of food and water and personal hygiene supplies.
Templeton said the county has an “exceptional relationship” with the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency, and said it responds quickly when a disaster strikes.
However, he wants the county’s citizens to understand that in the event of a disaster, it may take three to five days for outside help to arrive. It is for this reason that he recommended that each household stockpile enough supplies for this time period. He said, just to be on the safe side, having a week’s supplies would be even better.
County Emergency Agency Director Rudy Moore agreed.
“If you have a preparedness kit to help you take of yourself for a few days, particularly medicine or special needs, that’s a big thing that’s gonna be needed,” he said.
Templeton said that the highway department has responded “extraordinarily well” to water damage of the roads.
He also had a positive evaluation of the Sheriff’s Department and local police departments, saying they “respond in much the same way.”
Local volunteer relief efforts have benefitted from the coordination provided by Jesus Cares, Templeton said.
In general he said he was “confident we are as well prepared as we can be.”
One improvement in disaster preparedness Templeton is eyeing is a better alert system. One specific improvement he mentioned was a telephone notification system. He said he anticipates that there will be money for this in next year’s county budget.
Although a system like this in Hardin County has had a series of problems, like people being called too late or not being called at all, Templeton said that it is his understanding from conversations with the Hardin County mayor that the bugs are being worked out.
Templeton also said that Henderson County, which includes Lexington, has a similar system without these problems.
On the possibility of an earthquake, he noted that scientists tell us we are overdue. He said that although we will have damage, because most of the buildings in the county are one-story homes that are well-constructed, buildings falling down will probably not be a big issue. Most of the damage will be chimneys falling down and things falling off shelves, he said.
A second problem that the county would face in the event of a large earthquake is refugees.
The county currently has two disaster shelters: the community centers in Selmer and Adamsville. One recommendation of the hazard mitigation plan recently adopted by all local governments was to have shelters in other towns.
Templeton said that this was to be one of the things the disaster grant, which is being held up, could be used for once the funds are released and the county gets clarification on what the funds can be used for.
Though Selmer Parks and Recreation Director Sybil Dancer could not say specifically how large an earthquake or how much wind the Selmer Community Center could withstand, she did say it had been here since the 1930s and has withstood every storm since then.
She also said she thought it would hold around 250 or 300 people in the event of a natural disaster.
The Selmer Department of Parks and Recreation runs the community center.
The Adamsville Community Center will hold around 250 people in the case of an emergency, according to City Manager Terry Thrasher. He also did not know the wind velocity or magnitude an earthquake the building could survive.
Moore said, “We have tried to raise awareness level about earthquakes and storms.”
He lauded the performance of McNairy countians, “judging from the tornadoes, people are capable and in good position to take care of their own. People step up, volunteer.”
Although we have not experienced a large earthquake in our lifetimes, Moore said, “We are preparing for that all the time.”
Based upon the experience from the tornadoes and flooding of last year, he said, “We can stand for a while on our own.”