Student's plan could one day save lives near Port Bienville

HANCOCK COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - At least five major industries located at Hancock County's Port Bienville Industrial Park work with toxic chemicals. But right now, the county doesn't have a comprehensive plan to safely evacuate people in the event of a chemical leak.

Tulane graduate student John White took on the challenge to change that.

"Purpose of the system is to save lives," White said. "It's fail safe, no one is going to be left behind. "

White focused first on evacuating children, senior citizens and people with special needs within ten miles of the port. To do that, he plans to improve the county's First Call system that sends a recorded message to phones.

"There's no way of knowing who have been reached or evacuated. Yes, First Call will call you and let you know, but I don't know if you're not there. I don't know if there's someone there that didn't hear it in the middle of the night and needs to get out of there. And there is only one way I know to do that, and that's go to their house and knock on their door."

White calls his alert system "The Paul Revere Warning System." It would use a pool of trained volunteer first responders, normally used during hurricane evacuations, and put them to work for chemical spill evacuations.

"They are going to say to you, 'You have anybody here that's in a wheelchair that needs help getting into a car?' This is what your volunteers will do. Get them out of there."

County emergency leaders like the idea and are in the process of implementing it.

"Anybody that comes up with an idea that we can do to make things better is always appreciated," said John Albert Evans, Assistant Director of the Hancock County Emergency Management Agency.

Special needs patients are asked to register with the Hancock County EOC if they feel they will need assistance leaving, if an evacuation order is issued.

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