In case of emergency...

Christopher Gooding
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Springhill - SPRINGHILL: Having to evacuate from your home because of an industrial accident is something many never consider but there are those working in the background to ensure we are safe should disaster strike.
A recent false alarm called at the Ropak plant here in Springhill began to raise concerns whether plans were in place should a fire involving plastics occur or even batteries as in the case of Surrette Battery, also in Springhill.
The answer, Emergency Measures Officer for the county Jim Hannon says, is yes.
In fact, the emergency procedures for Springhill are currently under review and being updated.
"Right now we've been identifying hazards in the county and Ropak and Surrette have been addressed," Hannon said. "We've had walk-throughs of the buildings and identified materials and we kind of have a good idea where people should evacuated if something happened."
Right now the emergency measures strategy for many communities in Cumberland County are works in progress; constantly being updated and overhauled as new information or measures evolve. Currently, the Emergency Measures committee has been reviewing potential concerns throughout the county and developing policy that both minimizes the impact of a threat while effectively protecting the safety of the affected citizens. Determining resources, special needs of individuals in immediate areas and possible health concerns are all under review while the emergency measures committee updates their action plan. Knowing in advance the needs of potential evacuees is a proactive and responsible procedure, Hannon says, but won't happen without cost.
"We've applied for federal funding to offset the cost for a community survey."
Springhill, Hannon says, is not the only community under review in the county. Concerns should anything happen to freezer plants in Oxford and Halfway River are being addressed as well and evacuation plans being updated but Hannon wants to remind citizens that while these policies are under review that it doesn't mean thee people are without strategy in the event of an emergency.
"As far as EMO is concerned our main job is to be sure they're evacuated but the fire departments in the area are on top of what's in their area and what to do."
This week the committee was slated to meet as early as Monday to discuss the region's evacuation policies and once finalized will be made available to the people.
Staying in constant contact with officials, however, is the best way to determine what to do next when disaster strikes, Hannon explains.
"Evacuation locations can always change because of things like the wind. We have to be pretty quick on our feet."
In ever situation police and fire departments take the lead in evacuation and people should never assume they know where to go in the event of an emergency. The consequences of assumption, Hannon says, could be devastating.
"You could be moving into a dangerous area and not realize it because you think you know what to do from reading something in the paper," Hannon said. "Always check with police or the fire department if they haven't already called you."
Cumberland County has been very fortunate few evacuations have been ever called but, also, so many services have been on call in the background despite quiet days, Hannon say. Organizations like the Red Cross and Salvation Army have been waiting in the wings should disaster ever strike and there are even measures in place for family pets if and when an emergency evacuation is called.
"It's always been a bone of contention people won't leave without their pets and if you're going to house thirty to forty evacuees in a gymnasium you can't have their pets there so we now have a program in place to take care of them."
When completed the strategy will be presented to the public.

Organizations: Emergency Measures committee, Red Cross and Salvation Army

Geographic location: Springhill, Cumberland County, Oxford Halfway River

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