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Gainesville, Hall County update disaster plans
Plans required for federal disaster recovery funds
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Hall County and Gainesville emergency services and public safety officials are prepared for the next time a disaster rolls through the region.

Gainesville City Council members approved two disaster preparation plans Tuesday, just before today's 75th anniversary of the 1936 tornado that killed more than 200 people.

"The fire department has been around for a long time, and I think about what that anniversary reflects for the city and the firefighters at that time," Gainesville Fire Chief Jon Canada said. "Our men and women were out there in the aftermath, saving lives."

The Hall County Pre-Disaster Hazard Mitigation Plan and the Hall County Local Emergency Operation Plan are five-year updates that dictate how city and county services respond during a disaster.

"It includes Hall County and all the municipalities, what we do locally, who handles what, who is responsible for decisions and who the state and local emergency directors are," Canada said.

The 100-page documents coordinate county and city medical, fire and police units, as well as teams organized to handle transportation, communications, public works, public utilities, search and rescue, and hazardous materials.

"These are generic all-hazard plans that help with a tornado, flood or huge fire," said David Kimbrell, Hall County fire chief and director of Hall County's Emergency Management Agency. "Each of those events involve an evacuation piece and include law enforcement, school systems and transportation, as well as our emergency operations center and any government agencies that would come in to give aid."

The hazard mitigation plan identifies any facilities or roadways that are more prone to hazardous conditions during a disaster, such as unstable buildings or flood plains. It also includes areas that could act as possible shelters.

"We've had this plan in place for quite some time, and it works well, but we update the basic framework to include current personnel, equipment and resources," Kimbrell said.

The plans are also required for federal disaster recovery funds.

"These are multipurpose plans for designating who is responsible," Kimbrell said. "For example, the snow in January was not a disaster but an inconvenience because the roads were slick. But we still used the same thinking and organization as we would for a larger emergency."