Georgia County Government - January/February 2013 - (Page 24)
Prepared Today for Tomorrow’s Disaster
By Laura A. Hernandez
uly 1994: Tropical Storm Alberto stalls over western Georgia, dropping torrential rains across a wide area. The Flint, Ocmulgee and
Chattahoochee rivers rise to record-high levels, triggering the worst
flooding in Georgia history. Though Alberto never actually gains hur-
single expert in this position or an entire
skilled staff, local leaders’ cooperation with
emergency management efforts is critical.
Always remember the lesson from Georgia’s
disaster history: You can never be too ready.
Your county is on danger’s hit list.
ricane status, by the time the storm and the flooding are over, more
than 40,000 people have been evacuated and 55 Georgia counties are
deemed disaster areas.
September 2009: Heavy rains drench
the southeastern United States, inundating north Georgia and metro Atlanta.
The water brings devastation estimated
at a half-billion dollars with over 20,000
homes, businesses and public buildings
suffering major damage. Federal disaster
declarations are issued across 23 counties.
April 2011: During the most active tornado month in U.S. history, 13 tornadoes
rake across middle and north Georgia in
a two-day period. When an EF4 tornado
touches down in Catoosa County it leaves
an estimated 700 buildings damaged or
destroyed, eight citizens dead and over
Not If, but When Disaster Strikes
It may not be something county officials want to think about, but a disaster—
whether natural, like a major storm, or
man-made, such as an act of terrorism—
can pose a significant hazard to business
as usual. Because of their threat to life
and property and likelihood of leaving
material and economic destruction in
their wake, such events deserve concern
GEORGIA COUNTY GOVERNMENT
and attention well in advance of their
arrival. Recognizing this, many counties
in Georgia have made emergency management programs a priority, implementing
best practices to enhance their preparedness, response and recovery efforts.
Across Georgia, county governments
recognize that their communities depend
upon them when circumstances become
dire, expecting immediate and authoritative emergency response. They also
realize that after the threat has passed,
citizens will rely on their local government to guide the return to normalcy. To
best carry out these responsibilities, local
leaders must establish a strong commitment to effective emergency management
long before disaster strikes. This activity
requires forethought and coordination.
Efforts must be directed toward reducing
potential threats, planning and preparing
for dangers and responding to and recovering from actual emergencies.
The county emergency management
function is best suited to focus upon these
actions. Whether a county supports a
Understanding the Emergency
The activities of planning and preparing for emergencies and responding when
they occur are widely perceived to be a
government duty, and emergency management agencies—known as EMAs—can be
found in government from the local to the
federal level. The primary responsibility of
an EMA is to reduce the impact of major
disasters, both natural and man-made.
Georgia’s Emergency Management
Act of 1981 sets forth guidelines for
the organization and administration of
Georgia’s EMAs. The law states that only
if a county possesses a local organization
for emergency management will it be eligible to receive state funding for disaster
relief assistance. Further, the Emergency
Management Act authorizes the appointment of local agency directors and sets
forth requirements for such directors
and their duties. All 159 Georgia counties have emergency management functions in place.
Across the state, emergency management operations are found in a variety
of forms in the government structure.
Larger counties often have an EMA with
a full-time director and staff. In smaller
counties, the EMA function is less likely
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Georgia County Government - January/February 2013
Chatham County: Cultivating Opportunities to Grow Investments
2013 ACCG Annual Conference Preview
Eight Annual Georgia County Excellence Awards
County Government : Emergency Management Agencies: Prepared Today for Tomorrow's Disaster
Federal Update: The Fiscal Cliff: What's in the Final Deal and When's the Next One Coming?
Counties & the Law: Avoiding First Amendment Liability in the Employee Discipline
System for Taxing Motor Vehicles to Change March 1
News & Notes
Index of Advertisers
Georgia County Government - January/February 2013