With as chilly as it has been this past week, it seemed a bit strange to be thinking about the storm season soon being upon us, but as Mayor Marks said, “It’s already here.” There have been significant-to-legendary storms every year since he took office, and I am glad both for his battlefield experience in ‘Nam, as well as his pro-active stance regarding preparing for the challenges that come with each spring and its “predictably unpredictable” weather patterns.
This year, however, we have gotten some new help from the Emergency Management Agency in the form of what is known as “Smart Boards.” There is one located just down the hall from his office, and is ready to be “deployed” as a “storm season soldier” for when everyone from first responders to media need to be kept in the loop. A Smart Board is essentially a white board that has broadcast capabilities. Doppler weather patterns, response intel, grids, even the ability to put circles and arrows or other handwritten directions can all be on it simultaneously, and can broadcast in real time. It keeps people from “walking” on each other, prevents the duplication of efforts, and speeds up response time. Mayor Marks gave an example of how it could be used. “Say, for example,” he said, “you live in a house with a storm shelter. You can choose to register that information with the EMA. If a storm came and a tree fell on your house, you might be safe in your shelter, but trapped. They would know sooner that they would need to come and check on you because they would have both the information on the tree as well as the registered storm shelter at their disposable.”
Many of you are probably aware that every municipality has storm teams that are ready to deploy to help other areas when they are hit. The Smart Board helps co-ordinate everyone’s efforts. “This thing is like Centcom,” I said, and he replied, “Exactly.” (Centcom is the “nerve center” in a combat zone.) He went on to remind me of the town of Guin, where jeans were literally falling out of the sky because a blue jeans manufacturing facility had gotten hit in a storm, and our team went to help. If something like that happened again, because of the Smart Board, we would be able to respond even more quickly. What most people don’t realize is that one of the most daunting things about storm management is the documentation necessary to present to FEMA for disaster relief. Last year’s storms would have cost the city about 5 million dollars in damage, but due to excellent documentation, we were reimbursed 80% of that. The Smart Board will also assist in keeping track of equipment used, man hours charged, and resources utilized, which will greatly reduce the cost of “digging out” after we get hit.
One of the things that helps the teams be of true service to each other is the relationships that exist between the mayors and managers of various municipalities. As such, Mayor Ronnie makes sure that he attends the meetings with other mayors where “they have a meal, fellowship, and have a mission to stay in touch with each other, support each other, and look at ‘items on the table’ that each town deals with.” The most recent meeting of the North Alabama Mayors’ Alliance, of which Mayor Ronnie is president, was held on the 19th of February. He also spent time in the Shoals this week at a Waste Water Management Conference.
Switching gears, he also recently taught Sunday School in a rotation of six teachers at his church who are covering the “High Praise Psalms,” Psalms 146-150. He taught from 146 and 147, and reminded his class and me that we need to “stop and recognize that praise is always something we must do.” He’s right, that’s true, we then prayed, and once again Ronnie was rollin’.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner