Officials question county's readiness for disaster - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Officials question county's readiness for disaster

From his office in East Shelby County, James Bolden oversees homeland security for six counties in west Tennessee. When it comes to earthquake readiness he's brutally honest.

"Certainly, we're not where we should be," Bolden said Monday.

Across the state, reports are the same. Emergency management agencies are short on satellite phones, generators, food, water and mobile shelters. West Tennessee is no exception.

"We don't have them at this time," Bolden said. "Certainly, there's a limited amount that's on hand."

Bolden says federal funding doesn't cut it, and Shelby County Mayor AC Wharton knows it. He talks often about the heavy planning he and other government leaders are doing to be ready for a big quake.

But he'd rather talk about what everyday citizens need to do, pointing out that government will never be able to do enough in a crisis.

"We simply do not and will not have enough first responders," Wharton said. "Even on a good day would not be able to get to everybody who might find his or herself in harm's way."

Wharton says emergency agencies are always improving their communications systems. It's an old problem getting new buzz and new money. But he says if cell towers go out, the systems go down. Satellite phones are expensive, and the federal government doesn't send enough money down the pike, and stockpiling is too big a job.

"This idea of stockpiling is not simply something that we in the public sector ought to do," Wharton said. "We ought to take our neighborhoods and take a manageable area, try to find some structures, which based on current knowledge, would be better than others to withstand a seismic event and say now, we're going to put food supplies there."

On October 8th, the Homeland Security Council will host a summit for citizens at the Cook Convention Center. It's designed to help neighborhoods and communities get ready for an earthquake, independent of government efforts.

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