By Grace King, Mt. Pleasant News
Henry County is proactively preparing in case of disaster.
Emergencies start local and end local, Emergency Management Coordinator Walt Jackson counseled during a Board of Health meeting on Tuesday, June 12.
?The state and FEMA may come in, but they?re going home,? Jackson said. ?We?re the ones who have to live with everything in the end.?
Jackson was invited to the Public Health meeting to talk about building relationships before disaster strikes. ?When disaster happens isn?t the time to be passing out business cards,? he said, adding that he touches base with Public Health Director Shelley Van Dorin about once a week.
Jackson acts as a liaison between locals and the state of Iowa so if an emergency gets too big too fast and can?t be handled at the local level, he knows who to contact at the state level to get help to the county.
Jackson cited several examples of when state government help was necessary, including an incident in 2016 when a man drowned in the Skunk River. ?We needed search dogs and divers. Through my relationships, I already knew of a team in Cedar Rapids that could come down,? Jackson said.
Jackson also mentioned the 2008 tornado in Parkersburg that devastated half a town, spinning a path three quarters of a mile wide. Jackson said if a tornado like that hit Washington St. in Mt. Pleasant, not only would infrastructure for the city be destroyed, but infrastructure for the county as well such as the Emergency Management Building, the Henry County Courthouse, the Henry County Sheriff?s Office and the Henry County Health Center.
?It?s our eggs in one basket,? Jackson said. ?That?s part of my job too is going to other cities in the county to develop emergency operation centers such as the Swedesburg Church.?
The Board of Health is working with Jackson to reach out to businesses downtown to find out what they can provide the county in the event of a disaster.
While a disaster in Henry County would be chaotic, Jackson said his job is to ease the stress and keep the chaos to a minimum.