Jackson Co. recognized as coast’s first Storm Ready county

JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Jackson County is the first county on the Mississippi Gulf Coast to receive a very important award that says it's committed to storm safety and preparedness. The National Weather Service Office of New Orleans and Baton Rouge presented the county with the Storm Ready designation on Monday.

The Jackson County Emergency Services Team is lead by Earl Etheridge. Etheridge said the team is always finding new ways to make sure the county is safe and ready for whatever Mother Nature brings.

"We are trying to do our part for the citizens," said Etheridge.

The National Weather Service certified Jackson County as Storm Ready on Monday because of the emergency team's efforts.

"This designation of Storm Ready is not an easy task. It involves inspections, redundant communications, and Jackson County has achieved a big milestone in getting storm recognition through 2017," Meteorologist Ken Graham said.

The county applied for the award two years ago, and it had to meet 12 required guidelines to be part of the program. One was having a central emergency location.

"Which we do here the operation center. You also have to have a backup building, which we do on the other side of the county," Etheridge said.

Having proper communications systems to receive severe weather forecasts and warnings to alert the public was also vital to receiving this award.

"We have a FM work system that sends out text to people that are on our system. We have a reverse 911 system, which we can call anyone in the county that's registered phones with the county, to get them weather information or warnings as needed," said Etheridge.

The award could pay off for the county in more ways than one.

"What we are hoping it will do is translate into some savings with the flood insurance. You get points for being Storm Ready, which may help the citizens. We don't know how that will translate. That is up to the federal government, but we may actually see some savings for flood insurance for the citizens," Etheridge said.

With hurricane season underway, the county team is hoping this award will also encourage folks in the county who don't have a hazardous weather plan to get prepared.

This is a voluntary program, and the special designation will last three years.

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