In This Weeks Edition: 06-06-2012
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County EMS plans for future storms

Jerry E. Halmon, Staff Reporter

June 1st, through the end of October is officially hurricane season. But Mother Nature doesn’t seem to know that. With two tropical storms having already formed off the coast of South Carolina this year and another having formed on the west coast, it appears residents of the east coast are in store for a busy 2012 hurricane season.

In an effort to prepare for the hurricane season, the Bamberg County Emergency Services Office, along with state and local governmental agencies entered into a joint effort with Aero Bridge, which is a national aviation volunteer organization, to hold a military style hurricane response training exercise, on Tuesday at the newly refurbished Bamberg County Airport.

Greg Stidom, Field Director of Emergency Services for Aero Bridge of North and South Carolina and based at the Bamberg County Airport said that aircraft coming from North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia during the exercise would be bringing in basic supplies like water, food and oil for the aircraft. Those supplies Stidom noted would be staged in the hangar area at the airport to be used on Wednesday for the exercise done by the County to establish a port distribution and to distribute those assets in the community.

Stidom noted that along with his role as liaison interacting with other agencies and specifically with Bamberg County EMS, a part of his job was to fly reconnaissance missions over the two major evacuation routes through Bamberg County. The two main areas of evacuation during a hurricane that would impact this area would be the coastal area near Hilton Head and the southwestern portion of Charleston near the Ashley River and James Island.

The main areas of response being evaluated during Tuesday’s exercise to the fictional storm named “Jake” were: The ability to provide reconnaissance in real-time of video and voice information back to the EMS Center in Bamberg County; Providing reports on the evacuation routes simulating a real exercise; establishing an instant management team responsible for coordinating the incident scene at the airport and providing on-site management making sure it is done safely.

Pat Williams, who served as the Public Information Officer for Tuesday’s exercise noted that Bamberg County is the first county in the state to have an exercise of this kind with Aero Bridge.

“So we’re very happy about that,” Williams said, adding “So we can find out what we need to improve upon. We’re very excited to have them here and we thank them,” Williams commented noting that all of Aero Bridge’s members were volunteers.

Williams commented that one of the purposes of the mock hurricane exercise was to provide participants with an opportunity to evaluate their present response concepts, plans, and capabilities during a hurricane scenario.

Cliff Hale, an Aero Bridge volunteer from Atlanta, who flew his plane in on Tuesday with supplies said the exercise held on Tuesday was a “fairly new” aspect of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) hurricane preparation.

Hale, noted that the Bamberg County Airport was chosen for the exercise because it is well inland and “fairly isolated” and does get a lot of airport traffic. It was noted that Aero Bridge had invested 5000 man-hours of work over two years in bringing the airport up to a “technical level” so operations can run out of Bamberg.

Brenda Bassin, a volunteer with Aero Bridge noted that the Bamberg County Airport was “an asset to the community” and could be used to promote business. She noted that close to 100 airplanes and volunteers were expected to fly in on Tuesday for the exercise, but because of inclement weather and prior engagements some were forced to cancel.

Health Fair

Joyce M. Searson, Publisher

The Health Fair sponsored by the Urgent Care Center of Bamberg Saturday had a great turnout with about 75 people attending to get free health screenings and to join in the fun.

Susan Eichman, nurse manager for the Urgent Care Center, was surprised at the number of people that came.

"There were approximately 75 people that received free blood sugar, cholesterol, vision, blood pressure and prostate screenings. I was very pleased with all the volunteers from the Barnwell Hospital and Urgent Care on hand today. There was someone from every department to help out. We even had a phlebotomist student that volunteered to help with the blood screenings," said Eichman.

Vendors from Barnwell, Bamberg and Orangeburg were handing out pamphlets and sharing their information and reaching out to Bamberg County residents.

The kids had their faces painted and enjoyed snoCones and popcorn.

Emergency personnel from local fire departments, rescue squads, police departments, and the sheriff's department, along with the Life Net Helicopter and its team of professionals were there to greet the visitors.

The Health Fair was sponsored by Life Net-Helicopter, the Bamberg Fire Department, Williston Rescue Department, Pendarvis Rescue Department, The Dawn Center, Visiting Nurses Association, Poison Control, area hospices and the Bamberg Rescue Squad.

Kathy Schwarting, Director of Media Relations and Marketing for Urgent Care Center of Bamberg said, "It was a great turnout. The weather was perfect and we were very pleased with everyone's support. We look forward to serving the citizens of Bamberg County."