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Panola County EMA

Cole describes latest goings-on at EMA

By John Howell Sr.

Smoke detectors are available free to anyone in Panola County through Panola County Emergency Operations or through any fire department in the county, Panola EMA Director Daniel Cole said last week at the Batesville Rotary Club.

Cole gave an overview of the jobs that come under the umbrella of the county EMS, including Homeland Security, Emergency 911 telephone services, county fire coordinator, the decennial census and search and rescue in coordination with the sheriff’s department.

The smoke detectors — tamper-proof and powered by 10-year lithium batteries — were purchased through a $256,500, no-match Homeland Security grant, the EMS Director said.

The effort to place the smoke detectors in every county home came after the county achieved the dubious distinction in 2007 of the greatest number of fire deaths of any county in the nation.

Volunteer fire fighters from the county’s 11 fire departments have been going door-to-door, installing the smoke detectors. A Neighborhood Watch organization has assisted in one area of the county and local Boy Scouts have offered assistance in the installation, Cole said.

Preparing for a possible outbreak of the H1N1 swine flu, Cole said he “meets weekly about that” with officials of the Mississippi Department of Health (MDOH), “to make sure we’re on top of that.” MDOH has charge of planning for contingencies in the event of a serious flu threat, Cole said. Sites for mass immunization of the H1N1 vaccine have been predetermined, he said.

Health officials have become concerned about the H1N1 not as it currently affects victims, but “when it mutates and comes back around a second time,” he added.

“What’s the plan for the dam breaking?” asked Bob Wadsworth.

“We’re working on that; it’s a work in progress,” Cole replied.

Under consideration is a “reverse 911 phone call” by which a recorded warning message is transmitted to every phone on the county’s E-911 system, the Panola EMS Coordinator said. The increasing shift to exclusive use of cell phones makes that option less effective. Under study are proposals that would allow users of cell phones to sign up to receive the emergency warning through the reverse E-911 system, he said.