MSU Extension assists with disaster responses
Writer: Ms. Linda M. Breazeale, MSU Extension Service
STARKVILLE, Miss. -- The tornado in Lowndes County and widespread flooding in north Mississippi have triggered a variety of helpful “boots on the ground” to provide needed care and guidance.
When communities need help coping with a disaster, the Mississippi State University Extension Service is available in all 82 counties.
Jane Parish, head of the North Mississippi Research and Extension Center in Verona, said Extension agents are making agricultural disaster assessments and assisting with the Lowndes County volunteer reception center.
“We are using the training agents have received in the last few years to provide effective responses and organization following a disaster,” Parish said.
MSU Extension received volunteer and donations management training through a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture, in conjunction with the Extension Disaster Education Network.
MSU Extension provided needed care and guidance to those affected by the tornado in Lowndes County and widespread flooding throughout north Mississippi.
“We have learned that secondary disasters can occur following the initial disaster. Those problems can stem from an overwhelming number of volunteers or donations arriving on the scene,” she said.
As the flood waters rose in Calhoun County on Feb. 22, the local Extension agents helped open a location for owners of livestock -- primarily swine and goats -- to shelter their animals from flooded land. A handful of residents also sought shelter in the building that houses the Extension offices.
“We couldn’t do anything without the support of the Extension Service and the hard work we all do as a team,” said Randy Skinner, director of the Calhoun County Emergency Management Agency. “We appreciate all they did to organize the shelter and the rescue of the livestock and other animals that would have surely perished had they not intervened.”
The Calhoun County Extension personnel also worked with the Mississippi Board of Animal Health and the Calhoun County Farm Bureau to protect people and livestock during the flooding.
“Some of the livestock were hogs that were seeking higher ground on roadways in the county,” Parish said.
Lowndes County Extension agents are providing guidance and training of volunteers responding to the Feb. 23 tornado.
“Keeping track of volunteer hours is extremely important for future support the community can receive for recovery,” said Vivian Cade, an Extension Strike Team member. “We also anticipate providing significant technical support as victims look for agencies that can help them recover.”
Extension will help homeowners address additional problems once the waters recede.
“Following a disaster, people are confronted with issues such as insurance claims, home repairs, food safety and even stress,” Cade said. “No one is alone in a disaster, and Extension is ready to help.”