TOP STORY >> ‘Plan for the worst and hope for the best’
Leader staff writer
Following 9/11, Pulaski County Office of Emergency Management (OEM) in-vestigated 100 reports of anthrax in the mail, including one instance in Jacksonville in October 2001. Kathy Botsford, director of Pulaski County OEM, says since then, regular training exercises, grants from the Department of Homeland Security and the real-life lessons learned from Hurricane Katrina last August have the agency ready for both man-made and natural disasters.
The old adage of “plan for the worst and hope for the best” is the key to any emergency-response plan, Botsford told members of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce during a Tuesday luncheon.
Botsford says the biggest manmade threat facing central Arkansas, outside of a bioterrorism attack, is a chemical accident.
Businesses and families in Jacksonville need to have a plan in place in the event a tanker carrying chemicals derails off the Union Pacific railroad track or spills during a wreck on Hwy. 67/167.
“We’ll alert residents through the tornado sirens to let them know something is going on and that they need to go to their radios or televisions for more information,” Botsford said. “We might evacuate or we might tell you to shelter in place.”
Sheltering in place includes sealing and closing all doors and windows and staying indoors.
“We have evacuation plans in place for emergencies, but after Hurricane Katrina, we realized the plans weren’t very detailed so we’re currently working on that,” Botsford said.
Pulaski County OEM is using lessons learned from the Chemical Stockpile Emergency Preparedness Program (CSEPP) for the communities around the Pine Bluff Arsenal, the second largest stockpile of chemical weapons in the United States.
CSEPP educates residents about what could happen at the facility and how to respond.
During a recent exercise, CSEPP evacuated more than 500 students at Daisy Bates Elementary within 30 minutes.
Pine Bluff Arsenal is one of eight locations in the nation where chemical weapons are stored while waiting to be destroyed.
The Pine Bluff Arsenal stores two types of chemical agents–nerve and blister. The agents are stored in a high-security area.
The nerve agents GB and VX are stored in earth-covered concrete structures called “igloos.” The blister agents HD and HT are stored in thick-walled ton-sized containers that are closely monitored.
So far the arsenal has destroyed 34,000 rockets, about 13 percent of its total inventory.
In other chamber business, Brig. Gen. Kip Self, commander of Little Rock Air Force Base, recognized supporters of the 2005 Air Show: chief John Vanderhoof, of the Jacksonville Fire Department; chief Robert Baker of the Jacksonville Police Department; Robert Jackson of Arkansas Emergency Transport; Annabelle Davis of the Jacksonville Parks and Recreation Department; Thad Gray of Bart Gray Realty, and Jacksonville Mayor Tommy Swaim.