Catoosa receives StormReady designation

Catoosa receives StormReady designation

June 20th, 2012 by Mike O'Neal in Local Regional News

The National Weather Service has recognized Catoosa County as being a StormReady community.

During last week's County Commission meeting, Fire Department Battalion Chief Steve Quinn said the designation is directly related to preparedness.

Quinn, who heads the county's Emergency Management Agency, said nothing can be deemed "storm-proof" but it is vital that communities know how to respond to natural or manmade emergencies.

"The StormReady program has proven that the more planning is in place, the better," said Claude Craig, EMA director for Whitfield County, when the award was announced.

Barry Gooden of the National Weather Service office in Peachtree City, said a community that earns official StormReady recognition must meet several requirements:

n Establish a 24-hour warning point and emergency operations center.

n Have redundant communications systems capable of receiving severe weather forecasts or warnings and to alert the public of those reports.

n Monitor local weather conditions.

n Conduct public information campaigns or programs that explain the importance of public readiness.

n Develop and implement a formal hazardous weather plan. This plan should include weather awareness training for civilians and emergency drills and exercises for first responders.

Commission Chairman Keith Greene expressed his, and the public's, thanks that such preparations have been undertaken in Catoosa County and that plans are constantly being reviewed and upgraded.

In April 2011, when a tornado struck the area around Ringgold, federal and state agencies and national relief organizations remarked about the community that both its citizens and local authorities responded rapidly and efficiently in the face of a catastrophic weather event. Part of that preparedness came from lessons learned during major flooding that occurred during the fall of 2009 and several snow and ice storms during early 2011.

"I appreciate this," Greene said to those who delivered notice of the StormReady designation. "We could have a mass casualty event on Interstate 75, another storm, any kind of event, and as a citizen, I thank you."

During the commission meeting Quinn also told board members of two other significant awards earned by the county.

The Salvation Army has donated a total of $96,500 to the county to help fund its preparedness efforts.

About $75,000 will be used to establish and support a backup for the command center that is housed at the Catoosa County Sheriff's Office facility on U.S. Highway 41 just north of Ringgold. This backup system will be installed at Fire Station 1, located near the Ringgold Depot.

The remainder of the Salvation Army donation will provide two or three years of support for a mass notification system that is being initially funded by a Georgia Emergency Management Grant, Quinn said. The mass notification system is an automated phone chain, operated from the 911 Dispatch Center, that could simultaneously contact everyone in a particular area or countywide.

In a final appearance before commissioners, Quinn informed them that the county has updated its hazard mitigation plan for the first time since 2006. He said the roughly 300-page report/plan will be submitted for review by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The update plan will go into effect once it is approved by FEMA, he said.