Operation Homeland rescue draws 16 agencies

Sunday, March 5, 2006

Sixteen agencies participated in Operation Homeland Rescue Saturday at Arena Park. The event served to increase Missouri National Guard recruitment, public awareness and create liasons between local, federal and state agencies in the event of a disaster.

Spc. Joel Fields of the 735th Force Provider Company, creator and coordinator of the event, said that agency interaction would help fill in the cracks concerning disaster preparedness.

Fields said a lot of the guardsmen attending had been in New Orleans, where "we got a feel for what a real disaster is. We created a mini city there with a kitchen, fuel depot, a water purification area and laundry and showers. We're all a part of a team, and today is the first step in getting it all together."

Civilian Vanessa Baudler, also part of the ROTC program at Southeast Missouri State University for five years, lives near Arena Park. Out for a walk, she stopped by out of curiosity. "I think this is a fabulous idea," she said. "A lot of people are worried about a disaster. This is a great way to make them feel comfortable. The unity is reassuring."

The Civil Air Patrol booth was made up of adult leaders and cadets. CAP is the civilian auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force skilled in search-and-rescue missions. The local CAP Trail of Tears Composite Squadron has ground teams, certified pilots and a Cessna 172 Skyhawk at Cape Girardeau Regional Airport. Cadets continually make use of the Skyhawk and pilot training aimed at receiving a licensure.

Jo Ann Hahs, head cook at the Cape Girardeau Baptist Association, prepared the meat for feeding those who attended Saturday. The Polish sausage, rice and beans for the nearly 200 people were just a small order compared to the 10,000 people a day she cooked for in Hahnville, La., for 55 days. Hahs is with the mass care or feeding unit, which partners with the Red Cross and the Salvation Army.

"The Red Cross provides the food. We provide the equipment and workers. When there's a disaster the Red Cross and Southern Baptist Association access the areas and decide what the needs are," she said.

The Cape Girardeau County Public Health Center booth displayed a multipurpose radio that was used to charge a cell phone by crank. The device was also served as a light, siren and audio television.

"Disaster preparedness starts at home," director Charlotte Craig said. "Remember food and water but also the medications and include your animals. Personal preparedness for your family is most important."

cpagano@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 133

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