Meridian Star

September 11, 2013

Sharp: Volunteers make the difference

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

MERIDIAN — The job of preparing for accidents, chemical spills, weather damage and other disasters keeps  two staff members and David Sharp, director of Lauderdale County Emergency Management Agency, pretty busy.

    That's why volunteers can play an important role in preparing for and responding to emergencies, Sharp said. In an address to the Meridian Optimist Club on Tuesday, Sharp said volunteers with various skills and expertise are needed.

    "There are some areas we can't put volunteers in because of the nature of what we do," Sharp said. "We can't put them out there in a hazardous materials accident."

    Some volunteers don't stay because they aren't called upon enough, he said, but that doesn't mean they are not valued. There are about 100 volunteers active now.

    "You have some that are specific to certain qualifications. We have people that do ground searches, we have dive team members, we have an equestrian team who goes out on horseback to search in wide open areas."

    Still others do nothing but monitor weather, he said, and others handle communications through ham radio operations, which is very helpful with power is off or cell tower reception is out. Right now Sharp said his greatest need is for volunteers with a strong background in computer operations, particularly someone well acquainted with social media.

    LEMA is the coordinating agency for all emergency services in Lauderdale County. It provides assistance to all agencies having responsibilities in an emergency situation and it develops and maintains comprehensive emergency plans. Sharp said about 90 percent of what he does at LEMA is preparing for emergencies.

    To find out more about volunteering, call the LEMA office at 601-482-9852.