Harrison Co. Regional Incident Team helps tornado victims

HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Mississippi officials are hoping a federal disaster declaration will speed recovery for people living in the seven counties affected by deadly tornadoes earlier this week. Individuals and local governments are now eligible for FEMA help for things like temporary housing.

Meanwhile, Coast emergency responders are using lessons learned from Hurricane Katrina to help tornado victims put their lives back together.

The Harrison County Regional Incident Management Team left Thursday afternoon for Winston County for the team's first ever deployment. A briefing gave team members some idea of what they would find when they arrived in the tornado ravaged area, and what they likely would not find.

"They may not have computers. They may not have forms," said Harrison County Emergency Management Director Rupert Lacy. "They may not have pencils, pens, but we go in and we carry what we need to go in to help them. This relieves that burden, but it's a mini EOC that can work out of a tent or can work out of a building."

The team's job is to provide management support to help tornado victims get back into some type of normalcy. The Harrison County team was created as a result of Hurricane Katrina after Coast responders saw how helpful incident teams from Florida were when they came here.

Patrick Levine works for the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources. Levine is serving as team leader in Winston County.

"As you drive down the Coast and you think of the things we've gone through in the past knowing that it is going to get better," said Levine. "We are going to be able to move forward, and there is going to be a tomorrow. Keeping that direction to know that we have hope that we can move forward, and that's what we want to bring to them is the opportunity to bring hope."

"We're trying to help Winston County out with this team on some of the things that they may not be thinking about. Helping them today, plan for tomorrow, plan for next week, plan for three weeks from now. That's the whole intent of an incident management team," Lacy said.

Team members hope to learn as much as they can from this first deployment and how to respond even better the next time they are needed.

"This is a small contingency of the team concept, so it's a learning curve for us also," said Lacy. "What does work. What doesn't work. How we can improve on that to assist the next community."

Officials said the initial seven team members will be in the Louisville area for 10 days. After that time frame, if there is still a need, another group of team members will be sent to relieve them.

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