JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -
"Early on, we had 10,000 people on the missing list," said Robert Latham, Executive Director of the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency. He is a living history of events of Hurricane Katrina.
It was Latham's job then, as it is now, to protect and help every Mississippian during an emergency, even if there are unprecedented challenges.
"I remember, there were questions we needed answering," Latham said. "I would write those on a note card, put somebody in a car and say, drive to Hancock County and get answers to these questions and bring it back."
Medical response during Katrina was successful, only because the efforts were above the call of duty. There was no system to manage this level of disaster or the people injured. "We didn't have this at that time," said Jonathan Wilson. "It was just part of what we did in the emergency department."
Wilson is now the Chief Administrative Officer of Med-Comm, a 24/7 daily emergency response network created post-Katrina. It has the ability to coordinate first responders all over the state to any level of crisis.
"We don't have to wait an hour, two hours for our team to get here and get in place and get everything up and running," Wilson said. "We are up and running all the time."
Our emergency communication system did not exist during Katrina. Now, we have the Mississippi Wireless Information Network known as Mis WIN. "I could be in Southaven, Mississippi and I could take my walkie talkie, key it up and talk to somebody on Ship Island," Latham said.
The tower system is built to hurricane and disaster codes and standards.
Mississippians can also take comfort in knowing the next time we have missing friends and loved ones during a crisis, we have some of the best trained teams in the country for search and rescue. "It's very organized, very structured and very disciplined," Latham said.
The teams, known as Specialized Technical Advanced Response, or STAR, are extremely successful in their missions, so the next time we find ourselves in peril, we have much more than resilience. We have some of the best resources in the country to serve and protect all Mississippians.