Emergency managers network at annual preparedness summit

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Hundreds of emergency managers and first responders are in Biloxi this week. They're attending the annual Mississippi Preparedness Summit at the Coliseum Convention Center. They're networking and learning about the latest advances in emergency preparation and response.

"We can make one tremendous difference for the citizens of the state when we have emergencies," said Chad Callender, during one of the breakout sessions about search and rescue.

Search and rescue teams certainly made a difference recently. Tornado destruction in Louisville called the statewide network into action.

"You all have seen pictures, and some of you were there. It was pretty much wiped away in parts of the city, and we stayed there for five days conducting search and rescue operations until the last body was recovered," said Pierce Clark, Fire Chief of Philadelphia, MS.

South Mississippi responded to Louisville. Wiggins Fire Chief Jody Hatten is the district leader for search and rescue.

"In about 20 minutes, we'd talked to each individual department and we started compiling the numbers. Within 30 minutes we had a list of about 50 people ready to go," said Hatten. "We pulled out within two hours. Within six hours, we were on the ground in Louisville doing search and rescue missions."

Last summer in Greene County, it was a more unusual emergency. A 6-year-old girl was trapped 33 feet down in a well.

"I knew when I got the call that she was that deep. It was much more than us or anyone in our immediate area could handle," said Trent Robertson, Greene County's Emergency Manager.

"If he would have drug his feet on making that phone call, we may not have had the same result that we had," said Callender.

Emergency managers are networking with others from around the state; others who may one day lend them a helping hand.

"It's just great to put a name with a face and you get to trust people. When you call them, they know who you are and they trust what you're asking and they respond quicker," said Pearl River County Emergency Manager Danny Manley.

Copyright 2014 WLOX. All rights reserved.