Is The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency Ready In Case Disaster Strikes?

By: Rob Pratt
By: Rob Pratt

Knoxville (WVLT) -- If terrorism or a major natural disaster strikes Tennessee, will the state be ready to respond?

A new 28 page report from the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency is raising some questions.

Specifically it says most of the 47 state agencies that are supposed to be attending regular meetings and training sessions are not even showing up half the time.

While the problem is at the state planning level, we wanted to know if the local agencies you depend on during a disaster are ready in case one strikes.

It could be an outbreak of tornadoes like the one in Morgan County five years ago, a train wreck with hazardous materials like the one that led to the evacuation of thousands in Farragut or the worst case scenario, a terrorist attack with far worse implications.

Whatever it is, when the call comes in, you want to know that all the agencies who can help are working together.

"Our national office is ready at a phone call to bring in whatever resources are necessary to respond to any disaster that may happen here," said Boyd Romines, the Executive Director of the American Red Cross in Knoxville.

Local Red Cross leaders and volunteers at Thursday’s meeting know they can't do it alone.

When thousands of evacuees from Hurricane Katrina poured into the region two years ago, the Red Cross learned what it was like to have to figure it out as they went along.

“We didn't have all the phone numbers and we didn't have all the agreements in place,” Romines said. “I think now we're much better prepared, that we all know what our roles would be and we will work cooperatively and happily together."

The Knox County Emergency Management Agency is often at the center of the storm, both literally and figuratively.

Four years ago their modern Emergency Operations Center opened.

It was built for cooperation, giving people from several local agencies a place to come together in an emergency.

They also operate a truck which is a mobile version of the center, but even with all the technology, it still comes down to people working together.

And as history shows, disasters do not respect county lines.

“That's the challenge we see now, to broaden our perspective and start thinking in regional terms,” said Alan Lawson the director of Knox County’s Emergency Management Agency. “If something takes several days or even longer than that to resolve then it would be necessary to bring in outside resources."

The final assessment from the state is that bringing in outside resources would be easier at the local level if the state agencies that are part of the plan do what they are supposed to do.

That means having written policies in place, appointing qualified people to attend training sessions and making sure they show up.

You can read the entire report the state's emergency management agencies by clicking on the link below.


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