Can Chattanooga/Hamilton County Handle a Major Disaster?

Reported by: Bill Mitchell

Edited by: Ashley Henderson
Contributor: David Moore
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Updated: 1/31/2014 6:29 pm
CHATTANOOGA, TN (WDEF-TV) - In retrospect, most Hamilton county residents would likely describe Tuesday's snow event as "confusing and frustrating".
But, no lives were lost, and there were few injuries.
It was not a major threat.
But the "uneven" response is raising questions about whether we're ready for the "big" one.

MAYOR JIM COPPINGER "This was a weather related act of God, that nobody really foresaw occurring..including the national weather service."

A couple of inches of snow is usually no problem.
But if it catches us by surprise and there's a co-ordination problem, which is what happened Tuesday, it gums up the works.

MAYOR ANDY BERKE "We have a number of different cities..county entities,there will be a time and I sit down and say how can we make sure we don't have people hitting the streets at the same time."

In this case, schools dismissed and businesses closed at about the same time and a traffic mess, but no long-term damage. What if we had something like a major earthquake? Could we deal with that?

MAYOR JIM COPPINGER " I think you can look back over the past couple of years, and you see what occurred with the tornadoes that were here in Hamilton county ..and the way they were responded to...I think you can see Hamilton county is prepared."

Mayor Coppinger says EMS director Tony Reavley can assembly all the major organizations and rescue teams quickly at the Emergency Management Center on Amnicola.
And they are always second-guessing themselves.

TONY REAVLEY, DIR., EMERGENCY SERVICES "We do this like we do anything else. Anytime we have a major incident, we come back and we look at what we did...and maybe tweak a few things here and there."

MAYOR JIM COPPINGER "..And we'll continue to critique this situation and out of that we'll potentially have the opportunity to enhance our services in the future."

MAYOR ANDY BERKE "I think the lesson certainly for us." "is to try to seek better coordination between the entities."

Local leaders and agencies actually have different plans of action, depending on the scenario.
An event at the Sequoyah Nuclear plant, may significantly differ from a weather threat.

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