ROBERTSDALE, Ala. (WKRG) – Emergency management – a topic most often associated with disaster. It’s a perception that can lead to a disconnect between emergency managers and the residents they serve.

“Often times, we get looked at like we are not part of the community. But we all are. We all live here.” Says Baldwin County Emergency Management Director Zach Hood. “We are people. The impact on our homes and in our communities is felt right here in this very room. We just have a mission to carry out.”

That mission…to prepare Baldwin County and the Gulf Coast for disaster.

“We want to reach everybody. Different ages, different parts of the county. Everyone’s affected by disaster at some point or another.” Says Baldwin EMA Public Information Officer Jessica Waters.

Informing the public about impending tropical weather presents challenges. This was certainly true three years ago during a storm called sally.

“We knew right off the bat that our main problem early on was misinformation. And it was.” Hood continues. “The public had anchored in forecasts. They didn’t take any protective measures over the weekend. And then all of a sudden, the common individual would describe sally as a surprise.”

And that is where training comes in.

Training seminars ranging from one day to a full week happen year-round and training services here are about to get a big upgrade.

With the help of a 44-thousand-dollar Department of Homeland Security grant, this room will be upgraded with state-of-art-technology. Emergency management training sessions will be made available for first responders and the public at large.

“We know that the needs are there. Disasters begin and end locally, so the question is what you do about it. Well, there’s training opportunity.” Says Hood. “It doesn’t matter if you want to answer a telephone or cut a tree, there’s a spot for you. And that training room is where that training will be received.”

During any natural disaster, the Emergency Operation Center becomes the nucleus of the county. All essential county services, like power, water, fire, and police all have a place here. That representation makes Zach Hood proud.

“You have all these individuals from private organizations, government organizations, elected officials that come together within this room as decides what needs to happen now, what needs to happen in the future.

And with an influx of new residents into the region, the message from Hood and Waters is simple…prepare.

“We take every opportunity to connect with the community. Whether it’s an evening, a weekend, or an early morning. And that’s our role and purpose right now. It’s to get in front of as many people as we can.” Says Director Hood.

“Follow your local media, your local national weather service, your local emergency management. We are all trying to push out the same information to build and better, resilient community.” Adds Waters.

Know your evacuation zone and know how to survive in five…mean have at least five days worth of essential supplies and commodities. You can stop by the Baldwin EMA in Robertsdale or reach out to your counties EMA for more information.