Alabama EMA holds weather preparedness conference for local leaders

Published: Jan. 25, 2023 at 7:21 PM CST
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - The Alabama Emergency Management Agency held its 5th annual Preparedness for Alabama Resilience Summit in Montgomery on Wednesday.

City/County EMA officials, first responders, the National Weather Service, and other disaster relief experts gathered at the Multiplex at Cramton Bowl to network and discuss planning, response, and recovery efforts.

“We’re doing these all over the state, and we’re bringing the stakeholders together in each region of the state to talk about planning and preparedness for resiliency, to deal with disasters that evolve over time,” said Dr. Laura Myers, University of Alabama Professor of Emergency Management.

Dr. Myers said Alabama experiences more disaster events than any other state in the country, and this summit helps connect leaders to share best practices for dealing with severe weather.

In Montgomery County, EMA Director Christina Thornton said there has been a focus on better messaging.

“We’ve heard people complain because they don’t hear sirens,” Thornton said. “It was a polygon system. I’ve taken that away, and now it’s going to be a county-wide notification. That’s was one of the things we’ve learned from these recent events.”

On the statewide level, officials said more needs to be done to support victims with long-term recovery efforts.

“Because if this happened in your community, people would come to help, but eventually they would go away, and that’s what I hear most from communities is they still need help,” Dr. Myers said. “We need more volunteers. We need more entities that can stay for the long haul to help.”

There’s also a push to get Alabamians more prepared.

“I’d like to see that we achieve a way that all of the citizens have the ability after an incident to be self-sustaining for a few days until the state and federal assistance can actually get there and begin to make an impact,” said Alabama EMA Director Jeff Smitherman.

Another effort being made is to install more storm shelters across the state. Smitherman said they are working aggressively to accomplish that.

“We’ve got multiple applications pending,” Smitherman said.

We are only one month into 2023, and it’s already been a very active severe weather season in Alabama.

“We’ve already exceeded the average number of tornadoes in January. In fact, we’ve set a record, and the months not even over yet,” said Birmingham NWS Warning Coordination Meteorologist John De Block.

It’s why those responsible for making sure Alabamians are ready for when disaster strikes are collaborating to find the best practices.

Alabama EMA annually holds this conference in Montgomery, Huntsville, Mobile, and Birmingham. The EMA will continue doing these summits to ensure everyone is part of the conversation.

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