Anyone who uses electrically operated medical equipment at home or would require special assistance during an emergency may contact the Columbia County EMA office at 868-3303, or log on to the Columbia County Web site at www.co.columbia.ga.us to submit the form online by clicking on departments, then emergency management and then special needs.
By Rick Green
The Columbia County Emergency Management office has registered 156 people who would have special needs during an emergency or disaster, but the agency continues to seek others who have not been added to the list.
Emergency Services Director Pam Tucker said the special-needs list has been compiled during the past two years to assist people who require medical support equipment that operates on electricity, which could be interrupted during an emergency, or those who have conditions that would require special assistance in case of an evacuation.
"Once the residents with special needs are identified, they are contacted by EMA officials to provide further information regarding their specific situation, such as the type of medical equipment they use, whether or not they have battery packs, and how long the batteries will last," Tucker said.
Of the 156 people now in the agency's special needs database, 82 use medical equipment, she said.
Others might be confined to bed or may be elderly, she said.
All of the information is kept confidential, although the participants are asked to allow the EMA to share the information with Georgia Power to allow quicker resumption of service if a power outage occurs, Tucker said.
So far, everyone has agreed to the request.
"Due to our constantly changing community, we want to make sure that everyone with special needs is registered in the program," Tucker said.
Tucker said the EMA has had as many as 190 people in the database, but the number changes constantly as people get well, die or move.
She said the EMA recently sent letters to everyone in the database. "We do updates constantly," she said.
The original list was drawn two years ago after notices of the service were included in water bills, she said.
"There are probably new people who come into the area and don't know that the program exists, and we're just constantly changing so much in Columbia County that I feel like there are some right now that we don't have. Our numbers should be close to around 200, based on demographics and population," Tucker said.
She also said the database can break down names and addresses of everyone in the program by subdivision. This allows the EMA to provide quicker assistance if only certain neighborhoods are threatened.
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