Meridian Star

October 16, 2012

Emergency center to get computer upgrade

By Terri Ferguson Smith / tsmith@themeridianstar.com
The Meridian Star

MERIDIAN —     County emergency services will get some new computer equipment to help in times of disaster.

    The Lauderdale County Board of Supervisors approved requests on Monday from David Sharp, director of Lauderdale Emergency Management Agency to buy 10 computers for the Emergency Operations Center and 10 Ipads to use in the field following disasters.

    County officials had included $10,000 in LEMA's budget for the new computers. A Local Emergency Planning Committee grant of up to $10,000 will be used to pay for the Ipads.

    Sharp said in the seven years he's been LEMA director, he's never been able to fully equip EOC with the computers needed in times of crisis.

    "The problem is we don't have the computers up there. We have had to go steal a PC from our weather room or from one of our vehicles to get that done," Sharp said. "The Board put the money in our budget this year to go ahead and buy some computers to put in there."

    The computers will be equipped with software that will allow EOC workers to send reports straight to Jackson's offices of the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency.

    That information would detail what shelters are open and how many people are staying in them, what supplies the county might need, what equipment is available and what equipment is needed, Sharp said.

    "When we activate the EOC," Sharp said, "officials, whether it's fire chief, police chief, aldermen, supervisors, director of metro ambulance, somebody from the hospitals and utilities all come to EOC and they have a place that they sit. That way if we get a report of power lines down or a gas line that's leaking, we don't have to try to call or find somebody at Atmos Power, Mississippi Power or EMEPA. They've got a representative sitting right across the table from us."

    The computers will also be used for training, Sharp said.

    LEMA has already purchased one computer, and based on its cost Sharp said they will be able to buy 10 more.

    Ipads, or a similar electronic device, will be used to report and assess damage that occurs in disasters. The devices will have useful information, such as an emergency response guide book, basic first aid, search and rescue and other needed information, Sharp said. The devices can also be used to upload disaster forms to the MEMA office, making it faster and easier.

    The National Weather Service in Jackson has developed a program that allows them to submit photos and GPS positions from an area that's been damaged during a tornado or other disaster, according to Sharp.

    "We're hoping to get about 10 of those with the applications and the hard cases to protect them," Sharp said.

    The county will have to pay for the equipment, but will get reimbursed 80 percent of the cost through the LEPC grant, making the county's total investment $2,000.