September 29, 2012 was not Opelika Alabama's first preparedness fair, but from all accounts it appears to have been the best yet. Emergency Management and Lee County officials have been working for years to alert and inspire local citizens to do as much as possible to improve their Personal and Family Preparedness. This is the story of yet another of their successes.World Disaster Report staff (wdrep.com) began working with EMA officials in March of this year to organize the September Be Ready Fair. Under the direction of Kathrine Raines, Lee County's EMA director, Johnny Langley (Deputy Director) and Rita Smith (Public Information Officer/Grants Manager) officials undertook a complex project to bring in more exhibits and local businesses than ever before. The goal was to involve the local community and area responders in the fair to improve citizen awareness and motivate them to pursue personal and family preparedness.
Lee county has seen more than one disaster. Nov 11, 2011, saw millions of dollars in property damage when an ef-0 tracked all the way from Loachapoka to Beulah, shredding trees and the power grid. Two injuries were treated and released. Bearing this in mind officials were more determined than ever to do everything possible to help citizens prepare themselves to weather any adversity until EMA resources can be brought to bear and a recovery plan can be formulated. We were particularly pleased to see the county's interest represented by Mr. Robert Ham, Lee County Commissioner from District 4.
This family event was well attended. Before the sun was up on Saturday local emergency responders began rolling specialized equipment into place at the fair venue on Pepperell Parkway. Local activity says a lot about community involvement, and what it says about Lee County is all good. In addition to 100 or so Lee and surrounding county and state response personnel, conservative estimates place attendance at 500-600 (about twice the number of previous events) with the crowd being composed of adults and children. Why would families bring their children to such an event? We asked that question and received the following answers: "We wanted the chlildren to see who was looking out for their safety", "My family needs to be better prepared." "We want some more ideas and figured this was a good place to start." "These responders and volunteer fire fighters are my neighbors, and I want my family to appreciate them." Lee County Public health and the CMET (Animal Companion Mobile Equipment) attended to remind everyone of the need to maintain public health and to manage animal related problems.
Who Are These People?
The number of volunteer responders was impressive. A remarkable mental discipline is require to live in the everyday world with all of its everyday concerns and conflicts, but be ready to enter a world turned upside down without prior notice, sort out priorities, and bring a thousand painful clusters of chaos under control as quickly as possible so as to relieve the suffering of those entrusted to their care. Disaster planning and response requires these remarkable specialists to ferret out every conceivable combination of disaster (both naturally occurring and those caused by mankind's malice or mistake), and devise the most effective way to prevent and/or respond.
(below) Kathrine Raines, Lee County EMA Director and daughter
(above left to right) Lee County EMA's Rita Smith (Public Information) , Johnny Langley (Deputy Director), and Mrs. Langley
We point out to our readers that these responders are in many ways like everyone else. Their cars break down, children need braces or have difficulty with school, and the cost of groceries makes family budgeting more and more difficult. But in other ways these good people stand out. Most of us do not arise in the morning with the very real prospect of being required to place our health and very lives in harm's way to help a perfect stranger. That orientation takes a level of dedication and selflessness that seems to be very rare. In addition to these leaders who we have come to know very well, we have also included photos of responders from surrounding municipalities, some of who are volunteers - the only fire fighters in their areas. We salute one and all!
Lee County Commissioner (District 4) Robert Ham
Katherine Raines, CEM EMA Director
Johnny Langley, EMA Deputy Director
Rita Smith, PIO/Grants Manager
Justin Hardy, Lee County Engineer
Lee county Sheriff's Office (above)
(below) Brad Fields DVM (and thanks for your service in Iraq)
"Big Bird" with radio mast extended