OKOLONA – The Chickasaw County Emergency Management Agency hosted a tabletop exercise Tuesday morning, Nov. 5, with the focus on fine-tuning plans for any evacuations of the county’s two nursing homes and a personal care facility.

The exercise was held at Shearer-Richardson Memorial Nursing Home in Okolona.

The facilities are required to submit annual evacuation plans to the Mississippi Department of Health.

The exercise triggered memories of at least one administrator, who said she’d been involved in a previous emergency evacuation years ago in another county.

Agencies taking part included Chickasaw EMA, Houston and Okolona fire departments, the Chickasaw Sheriff’s Department, Chickasaw Department of Human Services, CareMed Ambulance Service, the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency, the Mississippi Department of Health, Shearer-Richardson Nursing Home in Okolona, and Floy Dyer Nursing Home and FernBrooke Personal Care Home, both in Houston.

My Transport Service representatives were also included in the exercise. They offer a vital asset within Chickasaw County as a safe and speedy method of assisting with evacuating residents to a safe location, event organizers said.

Said Chickasaw EMA Director Linda Griffin this week: “These nursing home and personal care home individuals are our most vulnerable population and we want to ensure we are prepared to evacuate them if needed. This tabletop exercise served as a training tool to help identify gaps in existing plans for all agencies involved in an evacuation. It allowed us to sit down with these facilities to determine our readiness to respond to a crisis or disaster.”

The meeting began about 10 a.m. and was done by about 11:30 a.m.

Chickasaw Fire Services coordinator Jonathan Blankenship said Wednesday morning, Nov. 6: “The nursing homes and assisted living facilities already have evacuation plans in place. Those working documents were updated at the meeting. The county’s emergency services representatives were just there in an advisory role, to make sure we knew their plans and could help support them in event of an emergency.

“The participants basically shared ideas at the meeting, and that’s always a good thing,” Blankenship said.

Added Okolona Fire Chief Terry Tucker: “Tuesday’s meeting was a was a good example of everyone thinking ahead, how we’d all interact if we all had to come together in event of an emergency.”

He termed the meeting more about fine-tuning existing plans than developing new ones. “The facilities all have pretty good plans to move their residents to pre-approved locations in event of a fire, tornado, shooting or earthquake,” he said.

Chickasaw Sheriff Jimmy Meyers said: “Tuesday’s meeting went smoothly. Each facility has their SOP (standard operating procedure) plans. It’s always good training for all the agencies to get together and work out plans in event something should happen.

“If there were an emergency and it involved criminal activity, our first priority would be to deal with that. Otherwise, our biggest role in any emergency would be to assist medical personnel, and give traffic and crowd control,” he said.

Jima Alexander, who along with her husband Tim, is co-owner of the 18-bed FernBrooke facility, termed the exercise “a great meeting. A lot of the leadership of Chickasaw’s emergency services and first responders were there. We did a walk-through of how we would respond to lots of different scenarios and manage an emergency most effectively. Yesterday helped us firm up those plans.

“Linda Griffin talked about a lot of things that are available to us, and we appreciate her making the effort.

“We’re grateful for the first responders, and emergency leaders in Houston. Whenever we’ve called for an ambulance, we’ve always gotten a quick response.”

She has first-hand experience with emergency evacuations, she recalled.

“Ten years ago, when I worked at another facility outside Chickasaw, we had to evacuate a wing due to fire. There were no injuries, but it gave me some first hand experience in how these things ought to be done.”

Messages left seeking comment from administrators at Floy-Dyer and Shearer-Richardson were not returned.

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