Ready for the Worst

County officials spend four days in Alabama learning disaster response

By FAITH HUFFMAN, News-Telegram News Editor

August 7, 2008 - Three elected officials and two firefighters from Hopkins County recently received training in Alabama that will better equip them to respond should a disaster occur in Hopkins County.

Precinct 2 Justice of Peace Ronny Glossup, County Clerk Debbie Shirley and Precinct 2 Constable Larry Argenbright joined firefighters Herb Scott and Jared Smith for the four-day Homeland Security training session at the Center for Domestic Preparedness in Anniston, Ala.

"If we educate our personnel and county government, we will be fully prepared for any type of emergency," said Hopkins County Judge Cletis Millsap said, who added the ultimate goal is to get every elected county official to the class. "We're trying to get them to come to Hopkins County, as some commissioners and others aren't able to go to Alabama due to the longevity of the trip and other commitments."

The Center for Domestic Preparedness provides federally-funded training for emergency responders from across the U.S. and U.S. territories in 10 disciplines: emergency management, emergency medical services, fire service, government administration, hazardous materials, health care, law enforcement, public health, public safety communications and public works.

"This facility offers an opportunity for our officials to get out there and see what's going on in the world outside Hopkins County and to train them for any emergency situation that might come up in Hopkins County," Millsap said.

Most of Hopkins County's firemen, including Chief Carl Nix, have already had some training at the Alabama facility.

Those attending the training are "specially selected from the nation's 11 million emergency responders." The scope of the training includes preparedness, deterrence and response. All hazardous preparedness training costs, including round-trip air and ground transportation, lodging and meals are provided by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

The constable, justice of the peace, clerk and firemen attended National Incident Management Systems intermediate and advanced courses. The training is designed to help prepare local officials who might be required to respond in some way should there be an emergency situation, which could range from a motor vehicle crash or tornado to a terrorist attack.

The classes offered valuable practice, as well. Each class participated in breakout sessions in which each the groups were given scenarios based on the course material. They then had to formulate a plan as to how best to respond to the scenario. Each plan was presented and critiqued with alternatives and ways to improve the plan discussed.

The preparedness of county officials through the training also puts the county in a better position to apply for and receive grant funding and other financial assistance to cope with and recover from disasters and emergency situations should they occur.

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