Pitts speaks at hurricane preparedness clinic

By Chris Edwards
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CORRIGAN – The City of Corrigan hosted a hurricane preparedness clinic on Monday evening at the Sechrest Webster Community Center.

Polk County Emergency Coordinator Larry Pitts spoke before a small crowd, mostly comprised of city officials and first responders, and outlined some of the most important aspects of being prepared for disasters, both of the natural persuasion and otherwise.

Pitts said early in the clinic that although the event was primarily focused on getting people mindful and prepared for hurricanes, other types of emergencies, such as terroristic acts are possible in any location.

Pitts said that Polk County is a region full of self-sufficient people, an important factor in surviving a disaster. In an event such as a hurricane, it is necessary to "plan on being self-sufficient for at least three days," he said. Pitts also explained how and why several items, such as generators, were important to have on hand, and why it is important for everyone to have an emergency kit.

Having up-to-date phone numbers and checking-in on elderly and/or shut-in neighbors are other considerations for residents to make in case of a disaster.

"It's that time of year," Pitts said, "and we don't' want to wait until [a hurricane] comes up to the Gulf." Pitts spoke of his experience in working as the county emergency coordinator, an area he began working in during Hurricane Rita.

Pitts also outlined the methods by which assistance comes to disaster-stricken areas, and that one important reason it is necessary to be self-sufficient in a time of disaster is because assistance from different agencies can take a while to come through. As far as what can be done at the county level in the face of such emergencies, Pitts said "We're going to do the best we can do."

According to Pitts, Polk County is what is referred to as a "pass-through" county and not a shelter county in the event of a huge evacuation. However, as he explained when answering questions from the audience, area residents will be taken care of.

It is necessary for families to discuss plans for what to do during a disaster as well as the possibility of having to evacuate, Pitts said. He urged everyone to "make sure your family is taken care of" first and foremost.

Pitts spent some time stressing the importance of volunteers in Polk County, particularly the firefighters who work for the VFDs in the area. "In the position I'm in now, I see how much they really do. Firemen are handy people."

Ultimately Pitts said it was paramount for everyone to have their own plan for the worst-case scenario. "There's going to be things that come up that we're not prepared for...we have to do the best we can do," he said.