County joins aid pact

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Selma Times-Journal

In the event of a future disaster, Dallas County could receive outside aid in a more efficient manner.

The county recently joined the South Alabama Mutual Aid pact, an agreement among lower Alabama counties to assist one another in an emergency.

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The agreement should simplify and speed up the process of transferring help between counties.

“Every county has signed an agreement with the state to request resources and get mutual aid,” said Pam Cook, Dallas County EMA Director. “The South Alabama Mutual Aid agreement takes it one step further. I could call upon the resources of Bibb County, or Chilton or Conecuh County, and they could call upon mine.”

After counties sign on, municipalities within those counties also have to sign on. Selma, Valley Grande and Orville have all agreed to join.

Without the pact in place, counties could not help one another without going through the Alabama Emergency Management Agency.

Aid agreements exist on two other levels: The Emergency Management Assistance pact covers state-to-state aid, and the Alabama Mutual Aid System covers state-to-county.

South Alabama has had an agreement since 1995, said the group’s president, Roy Waite, who also serves as emergency management agency director for Clarke County.

About 28 counties have agreed to sign the South Alabama pact.

The pact has been dormant for several years, although north Alabama counties have had a continuing agreement during that time.

The urgency to renew the mutual aid pact sparked after tornadoes rolled through the state March 1, 2007, causing major damage and claiming lives in Millers Ferry and Enterprise.

Enterprise had signed the Alabama Mutual Aid System agreement, but many of the cities rendering aid had not. Enterprise was penalized, and FEMA would not process approve reimbursement for other cities until mutual assistance agreements were put into effect.

“Say if Clark County needed assistance from Dallas County, and we don’t have a mutual aid agreement, we can’t get you reimbursement for your services,” Waite said.