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City and county officials discuss disaster preparedness

Columbus and Franklin County officials met Wednesday at city hall to give an update on how prepared the area is for a disaster. The meeting was an effort to avoid the type of problems faced by New Orleans administrators following Hurricane Katrina. Much of the discussion focused on how to care for the disabled during an emergency.

Columbus Police Deputy Chief, John Rockwell, says was one of the first to speak at the meeting citing communication between law enforcement and emergency workers to be one of the main setbacks in recent disasters such as Hurricane Katrina. However, Rockwell, assured the panel that would not be a problem in Columbus.

The meeting's topic, however, turned to communication between emergency officials and the public. Interim Director the Franklin County Emergency Management Agency Donna Monell says there are many warning systems in the county such as reverse 9-1-1 or the metro alert system that can put out an immediate message to the public.

But for those who are hearing impaired or blind, Monell says the local E-M-A is limited on how it can inform them in the event of an emergency. Some of those schools and nursing homes that have those disabilities within them have established lighting systems and vibration systems within their facilities but not all of those facilities have that type of notification system. What they have are people on 24 hours, safety officers that then receive the information and quickly move those people. But within a home, no.

But Columbus Director of Public Safety, Mitchell Brown, was quick to add that for people who may know someone who is disabled they should make sure they've been contacted.

It's one of those circumstances where we try to educate people that if they know someone who has a particular impairment that they are to look out for that person and to make them aware. And certainly should it be someone who has a hearing impairment they usually have a means on their telephone that they can get the information.

Columbus Police Deputy Chief John Rockwell added that it's time for the public to take action and be prepared for an emergency.

We've got to really start stressing to people to take care of themselves. We're stressing it to our own employees but we probably need to stress it more so to the general public.

Brown also stressed that in the event of a disaster the county and its residents should be prepared to be self-reliant for at least 72 hours.