Prepping for the worst

Published 10:19 pm Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Emergency agencies from across the state recently participated in a mass-fatality incident workshop at Chilton Medical Center.

The Alabama Department of Public Health conducted the training session for the State Mortuary Operations Response Team (SMORT), comprised of 50 volunteers who will respond to assist the local coroner at his or her request during mass fatality events. The volunteers include licensed funeral directors, embalmers, coroners and emergency management personnel.

The reason Alabama has created a SMORT team is to create a resource for local coroners who might be overwhelmed in mass fatality events. The team can go to an emergency scene within a few hours, opposed to waiting 48 to 72 hours for federal response.

SMORT units are located in Cullman, Lee and Mobile counties.

“Because of this work, Alabama is not only prepared, but is being recognized by other states for our level of preparedness,” said Andy Mullins, director of operations for the center of emergency preparedness at the state health department.

Chilton Medical Center CEO Larry Jeter said they were glad to assist these agencies for the training.

“Chilton Medical Center is committed to our community, and we’re pleased to be a part of such a vital exercise that helps us prepare to better meet the needs of our citizens in the event of a disaster or crisis,” Jeter said.

Alabama Emergency Management Agency Director Brock Long appreciated the assistance and cooperation of Chilton Medical Center by hosting the SMORT training.

“Interagency coordination is one way AEMA constantly strives to build a more prepared Alabama,” Long said.

Homeland Security funds were used to conduct the workshop series and to purchase some of the SMORT equipment. Public health funds also provided funds to participating agencies for supplies, training and equipment.

“Five years of planning, meeting and writing with state agencies and caring, dedicated people have brought together private industry, government and volunteers to serve the people of Alabama in a disaster,” SMORT team leader Doug Williams said.

Another workshop will be scheduled for March 31 in Mobile.