County officials get 'prepped' for emergencies

By FAITH HUFFMAN, News-Telegram News Editor

August 5, 2008 - Hopkins County Judge Cletis Millsap last week was part of the think tank being used to help develop curriculum and a guidebook to prepare newly elected officials across the state for emergency situations. Monday, he also handed out the 2008 Emergency Response Guidebooks for First Responders he brought back with him.

Shaping of the emergency guidebook for elected officials was conducted last week during the Texas Elected Officials Preparatory course held at Texas Engineering Extension Service's Disaster City and Emergency Operations Training Center at Texas A&M University in College Station.

"It's to help newly elected officials for emergencies," Millsap said. "We were able to come up with strategies in case of emergencies. ... We devoted curriculum for elected officials, to work together with all entities as we work together."

Millsap said that some situations that were noted were hurricanes, floods, wildfires, ice storms, industrial accidents, tornadoes, wind storms, and hazardous materials situations.

The plan will be utilized and made available to elected officials across the state for any given emergency situation.

Part of the conference Millsap attended also included education at the College Station emergency training facility. He participated in simulated activities in which participants were given a situation and had to formulate a plan of action, submit the plan and see if it was the most efficient, safe better course. Millsap received 16.5 credit hours for the session.

More than 45,000 emergency responders from across the nation and more than 40 countries train at TEEX's Brayton Fire Training Field, Disaster City and the Emergency Operations Training Center in College Station each year, experiencing hands-on, realistic scenarios that prepare them for disasters and emergencies.

Millsap Monday also delivered to Hopkins County firefighters the 2008 Emergency Response Guidebooks for 1st Responders. Hopkins County Fire Department will be getting the books to city and volunteer fire departments, as well as local law enforcement.

The books contains "codes" which are color coated. The codes directly correspond to the placard numbers on various types of chemicals and hazardous materials. Those color coded within the books refer to the next section in the book and actions and precautions which are required when dealing with those items, whether they are unstable, volatile chemicals or those which reaction badly to air or water, etc....

The books will be placed in fire department and law enforcement trucks and first response apparatus so that emergency responders can quickly check placards on containers or vehicles and react appropriately.

"They help us identify a product. You locate it by looking up the guide number found on the side of the product without having to come in real close or direct contact with the product," Hopkins County firefighter Matt Brown said Monday.

Hopkins County firefighter Brian Fairchild noted the books are important to emergency response, and used quite frequently when responding to 18-wheeler crashes. They check the placards, look up the number. It tell them what they're dealing with and whether it's volatile, and how it reacts in different circumstances.

"It's important for firefighters, volunteer fire departments, law enforcement officials -- the sheriff's office and police departments here, to have the necessary help to do their jobs, set up command posts. That includes all entities working together. The local medial, state and local agencies are all a part of that. If any problem comes up we will be able to deal with the disaster."

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