WIGGINS, MS (WLOX) - By 2016, the State of Mississippi will have the first and only stand-alone state and regional medical needs shelter. And it will be located right here in South Mississippi.
On Thursday, a groundbreaking was held where the new facility will be located in Wiggins. State, local and medical officials gathered to celebrate the future site of Mississippi's first stand-alone state and regional medical needs shelter. It's an idea derived after Hurricane Katrina.
"There are many vulnerable individuals within our communities that do not have the resources or will need special assistance in the event of an emergency," said State Epidemiologist Dr. Thomas Dobbs.
"After Hurricane Katrina, this state, with what we went through, realized that we have to be better prepared," said Executive Director of the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency Robert Latham.
That preparation can be seen in the future $7.7 million dollar shelter. At 23, 416 square feet the facility will be activated during a disaster and is expected to help hundreds with medical needs.
"I'd love to say it just serves the six counties here, but really it's a state shelter. We may have people that come from other parts of the state," said Jim Craig who is the Director of Health Protection at the Mississippi State Department of Health.
Stone County donated the land and Wiggins officials say that was clearly a win-win.
"This was an area that was not being used. It was a win-win for supervisors and the city that they donated this land," said Wiggins Mayor Joel Miles. "It puts us on the map."
In the past those with medical needs had to seek shelter at a community college during a disaster, according to officials.
"We took community colleges that had nursing programs that we felt like could staff facilities to take care of people with medical needs," said Latham.
Not only will the building meet FEMA 361 standards, and withstand winds up to 200 miles per hour, but it is located in close proximity to an airport, bus barn and major thoroughfare which is Highway 49.