Team formed to address homeland security issues

By Kathy Helms-Hughes


   In response to a request from Carter County Executive Dale Fair, the Elizabethton/Carter County Emergency Management Agency has organized a team of first responders to make up a local Homeland Security Council.
   Council representatives met Monday morning to bring everyone up to date on emergency response plans for Carter County. The group will head to Nashville later this week to meet with Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen and Ret. Maj. Gen. Jerry Humble, director of Tennessee's Office of Homeland Security.
   The council is made up of Emergency Management Agency Director Jim Burrough, and Renee Bowers, EMA Operations & Training; Carter County Sheriff John Henson; Elizabethton Police Chief Roger Deal; Elizabethton Fire Chief Mike Shouse; David Nichols, president of the Carter County Firefighters Association; Terry Arnold, director of Carter County EMS & Rescue Squad; Glenna Morton of 911 Communications; and Caroline Hurt of Carter County Health Department.
   The group met in private session Monday to discuss security concerns and the addition of extra patrol in certain areas, as well as plans for Carter and Johnson County smallpox inoculation.
   "A walk-through will be held Friday at Hampton High School," Burrough said. "We've got it on paper now. We're going to look at it and see how we're going to set it up." When the group held a walk-through at Elizabethton High School (EHS), they ended up reversing everything in their original plan, he said.
   The vaccine will be administered at the high schools, however, individual vehicles will not be allowed in the parking lots due to traffic safety concerns. A bus will ferry up to 50 people from Ingles parking lot to EHS, and from Doe River Gorge to HHS. Other pick-up points include East Side, Little Milligan, Keenburg, Range, Happy Valley and Cloudland elementary schools, as well as Unaka High School.
   "We're trying to keep the people in groups of about 50 for orientation purposes. We can move those 50 through together, and then when they move through, they can get on the bus and be out of there, and 50 more coming in," Burrough said.
   The local Homeland Security Council will meet again next week to discuss information from this week's conference in Nashville, and then will meet every other week after that. If the national alert level is elevated beyond high risk, or "Orange Alert," the group will meet weekly.
   Burrough said the local council will be looking at training needs to bring some county offices up to state minimum standards.
   "All of our departments right now don't meet those standards. The fire department is going to have to have some radiological monitoring-type training. We've got new radiological monitoring equipment coming in today and we've got very few people trained right for radiological monitoring," he said. Firefighters and some law enforcement personnel also will receive additional hazardous materials training.
   Burrough said grant money from the U.S. Department of Justice was used to purchase adapters for city firefighters' Scott Air Packs, which can be used in the event of a chemical attack. "It has three different filters so they can use whichever one they have to," Burrough said.
   Burrough was meeting Monday afternoon with Carter County's Hazardous Material Response Team to decide on equipment purchases, which also will be paid for with Justice Department funds.