By Bonnie Jackson
National Weather Service (NWA) officials have recognized Copiah County as a StormReady® community for 3 more years.
Randle Drane, Copiah County Emergency Management Agency Director, is the person who is responsible for overseeing the county safety preparedness programs to ensure county maintains this status.
According to the NWA, the StormReady program is a nationwide preparedness program which uses a grassroots approach to help communities develop plans to handle local severe weather and flooding threats. The program is voluntary and provides communities with clear-cut advice from a partnership between local National Weather Service forecast offices and state and local emergency managers. StormReady started in 1999 with seven communities in the Tulsa, Oklahoma area. Today, there are more than 1,800 StormReady communities across the country.
Drane takes the StormReady status seriously. It was under his leadership that the county first received this designation in 2009.
In order to become StormReady a community NWA requires communities to meet five requirements: establish a 24-hour warning point and emergency operations center, have more than one way to receive severe weather warnings and forecasts and to alert the public, create a system that monitors weather conditions locally, promote the importance of public readiness through community seminars, and develop a formal hazardous weather plan, which includes training severe weather spotters and holding emergency exercises.
Copiah County has achieved these benchmarks once with Drane’s guidance.
Director Drane has been the CCEMA Director for almost six years. He has served as a volunteer firefighter since 1979. So he has first-hand knowledge of what it takes to keep a community safe in a wide range of situations from house fires to tornados and any other form of emergency.
“As the county fire coordinator, I am responsible for communicating with all fire departments to assist them with equipment needs and training,” stated Drane.
There are eleven fire departments in the county. They are Allen, Smyrna, Hazlehurst (city and vol.), Dentville, Bethel, Stronghope, Crystal Springs (city and vol.), Hopewell, and Wesson.
“With all of the other duties the cities have, it is really a time consuming process to apply for grants, inspect equipment and report to Mississippi Emergency Management Agency. Two years ago, we streamlined the process by putting the safety issues for the cities and county under one umbrella. This takes the burden off of the cities,” explained Drane.
Drane credits the support of his staff and especially the Board of Supervisors the forward progress that Copiah County is making regarding safety.
The bid to build a$3.2 million FEMA 361 Safe Room for the County was awarded by the supervisors on January 3, 2012. Construction is salted to begin soon.
Drane has also worked with local law enforcement and fire departments to secure a $157,000 communications grant that allows all agencies to communicate with each other when emergencies occur and time is of the essence.
All in an effort to fulfill their motto ““Disaster Preparedness Saves Lives and Property”.
The National Weather Service is the primary source of weather info. for the United States and its territories using the most advanced weather system in the world. Visit us online at weather.gov.
By Bonnie Jackson