Rural America Addresses Emergency Preparedness

A major explosion hit a refinery in Texas City Wednesday. Fifteen people were killed and dozens of others hurt. It's the type of disaster emergency workers hope they never have to deal with.

But as the explosion happened more than 1,000 firefighters, law enforcement authorities and elected leaders, including many from East Texas, were in the middle of discussing emergency management strategies at a state conference.

That conference and the disaster fall in line with a national report issued this week. That report focuses on ways to prepare for public health emergencies. Rural America faces some unique concerns.

More funding for bioterrorism threats is listed as another need. An issue already reflected by the thick manuals that sit on Nacogdoches Medical Center Safety Advisor Jeff Scarboro's desk. In his mind, it's a lofty expectation. "I don't feel comfortable with radiological events. I don't care what we do I don't think there's a lot we're gonna be able to do to protect ourselves," said Scarboro.

Scarboro is not minimizing bioterrorism threats. He just wants to see funding directed toward the more likely threat for this community. "We think our biggest threat is Houston being the 4th largest city in the U.S. That's a huge target."

Possibilities like a major weather event, or even an explosion more severe than in Texas City concern emergency leaders in East Texas. "Highway 59 would be one of the routes that people would flee," said Scarboro.

Scarboro also knows, for emergency preparedness to be effective, there needs to be better coordination. "One of the things they're asking us to do is look at how we deal with the mental issue after an incident. But I've heard the state is working on a statewide plan, but part of our check list is for us to develop a plan, but why do we both want to do this and duplicate our efforts," pointed out Scarboro.

As with all emergencies, proper communication is vital. Making sure we're ready for disasters, we hope never happen.