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Emergency evacuation plan in works

Large-scale incidents like train wrecks and hazardous materialsspills can happen anywhere, and modern authorities are also forcedto look at a new threat – terrorist attacks.

Area emergency officials said there are measures in the works tobe able to safely evacuate citizens in case of one of thosedisasters occurs. Copiah County Civil Defense Director Randle Dranesaid leaders in his county are currently working through a seriesof meetings to put a plan in place.

“The objective is in case of a train derailment or hazardousmaterials spill on the interstate or any type of terroristincident, we’ll have a plan in place that if we have to evacuateour cities or county, we’ll have something to go by,” he said. “Itpretty much puts together a list of major contacts that we wouldneed to use in such a situation.”

Drane said while it may seem alarmist to have a plan in place,it’s part of his job to be prepared in case of an emergency.

“In this business you plan for the worst because you never knowwhat can happen and when it can happen. This is something we needin place for the sake of safety,” he said. “You have to keep thesethings in your mind, ‘What’s the worst that can happen, how are yougoing to handle it?’ If you don’t have some idea, it’ll be a totalmess when it happens.”

But it’s a process, Drane said, one that will take some time toget put into place.

“These things don’t work overnight,” he said. “We’re trying todo it step by step, and it’s an extremely large process.”

Lincoln County Civil Defense Director Clifford Galey saidknowing exactly what to plan for can be a trick, because theproblem with the unexpected is that it’s just that – unexpected.But Lincoln County and Brookhaven authorities know how to put theirducks in a row if evacuation does become an issue.

“We don’t ever know when or where something will happen, butwe’re always working with law enforcement and emergency medicalservices in case something does happen, about sealing things off ifsomething were to occur,” he said. “We know that we have a plan inplace that if something happens we know how to get together so weknow who needs to be where.”

Lawrence County takes a flexible approach as well, said CivilDefense Director Robert Patterson. Like parts of Copiah County,Monticello has alert sirens with voice capability. But out in thecounty and in Lincoln County, alerting residents falls to lawenforcement officers with loudspeakers, officials said.

“We’re working on a plan, and we’re kinda flexible on it butwe’re working on trying to get one in place,” Patterson said.”We’ve got a plan, which doesn’t always work, but it gives you agood baseline to work with.”

Galey said citizens can prepare for such a situation as well,simply by taking the threat seriously if it ever occurs.

“Just always be aware of what the emergency officials aretelling you and all their directions, that’s the best thing you cando,” he said. “They’re going to have the proper procedure for youto follow under those conditions.”

And Patterson stressed the importance of an emergency kit, whichis usually touted as a way to prepare for extreme weather.Patterson said a basic evacuation kit is a must for safety in sucha situation.

“Basically just be prepared to evacuate, have a kit ready to goif you have to evacuate,” he said. “You don’t want to have gothrough the house gathering medicines up and grabbing youreyeglasses if you need to get out quickly.”