Eagle Lake residents are taking the initiative in preparing for emergencies

Published 8:19 am Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Safety is like the air we breathe and the water we drink — often taken for granted until it is taken away from us.

Warren County residents are blessed by the dedication of countless first responders who selflessly protect us. Firefighters, emergency medical technicians and members of the county sheriff’s department are just some of those who help secure our quality of life here. But government and official organizations can only do so much with limited financial and human resources to protect us. Each of us bears responsibility for our safety and that of our neighbors.

This week, I witnessed the beginning of a new era of emergency preparedness at a gathering of Eagle Lake residents. Some two dozen citizens of all ages have begun training and formation of a citizen emergency response team.

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After completing online coursework offered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, they met to discuss next steps with Warren County Emergency Management Agency Director John Elfer.

“You are paving the way for the state of Mississippi,” Elfer explained to the group. He stressed that a CERT is a “force multiplier” for a number of potential hazards impacting a community, including flood response, firefighting and basic first aid.

The Eagle Lake meeting, led by resident Anne Dahl, focused on the most effective ways to use their individual skills to protect their community. Benchmarking other CERT communities across the nation and evaluating the various roles local residents want for additional training and potential certifications come next, with David Langley stepping up to the role of incident commander. 

“Some people thrive being in the heat of a battle,” Elfer said. “Others are willing to tackle administrative details and paperwork.”

He stressed the importance of documentation in an event as well as prioritizing goals for the community. For example, routine checks and service of emergency equipment such as generators must be clearly assigned in order to be effective. The community can come together on key decisions such as location of emergency fuel storage tanks.

Citizens across the Eagle Lake community embraced the challenge of being actively involved in their own preparedness following the devastating 2019 floods. Already, they find themselves better prepared for Mother Nature’s calling card as roads are being closed and homes threatened due to this year’s rising waters. 

The best emergency responders know that we should never waste a crisis. We must let the lessons of the past make us better able to face the future. Residents of the Eagle Lake community are a model for us as we consider the role each of us plays in the safety of those we live, work and play with. My hope is that others will be inspired to follow their lead.

 

Kelle Barfield represents District 5 on the Warren County Board of Supervisors.