Arkansas Department of Emergency Management (ADEM) from Jonesboro hosted an earthquake preparedness summit at the Sharp County Courthouse in Ash Flat July 21. The meeting was to assist area residents and emergency workers with planning for a potential earthquake.
Sharp County Judge Larry Brown said the group was presented with clips and a scenario of what would occur in the event the area was affected by an earthquake. Aside from the West Coast, Sharp County and other counties by the New Madrid fault line are at the highest risk for an earthquake. Because of this, many times it has been said that the area is due a "big one."
Being proactive is something Sharp County has been taught through trial and error as a result of disasters including the tornado, floods and ice storms that have plagued the area over the last few years.
Brown said communications are one of the major obstacles the county must overcome in the event of another disaster. He said the county has various options for ensuring the line of communication remains open between emergency personnel.
One option that was mentioned to the county is a Government Emergency Telecommunications Service (GETS) and Wirelesss Priority System (WPS). According to the National Communications Web site, GETS and WPS provide priority communications to the nation's emergency response personnel under a variety of conditions. GETS uses telephone lines to route priority calls to federal, state, and local users, first responders, and owners/operators of the nation's critical infrastructures. WPS is the wireless partner to GETS and provides priority access for registered wireless users.
Another option for ensuring uninterrupted communications between emergency personnel is TSP, for cell phone priority during normal service outages. Brown said the county will review the options and select a plan that will help them keep the vital communication lines open if the need arises.
The meeting also brought light that if a higher magnitude earthquake were to occur in the county, Sharp County could potentially be split into 3 or 4 sections. ADEM provided attendees with a map of the area displaying numerous bridges in the county which showed only three bridges constructed to withstand an earthquake.
Brown said the reason for these meetings is to address these issues and work on plans to help before an earthquake occurs.
He said the event was very well attended with representatives from Ash Flat, Hardy, Highland, Williford, Cherokee Village and Evening Shade.