Metro leaders say evacuation plans need to include winter weather

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ATLANTA - The traffic gridlock during the January snowstorm raises serious questions about plans to evacuate metro Atlanta in the event of a disaster.
 
Metro emergency management directors say the plan has to be expanded to include severe winter weather.
 
Metro Atlanta does have an evacuation plan in event of disasters. It's a secured, non-public document. Emergency managers say it does not cover winter weather and that needs to change.
 
"Anytime there's an event, an emergency manager looks back at that event to take in what happened,” says Robby Westbrook.
 
Westbrook’s president of the Emergency Management Association of Georgia. He also runs Cherokee County's emergency operation center.
 
He says from top to bottom, leaders have to look at how what happened during the January storm affected existing emergency plans.
 
Westbrook says the plan he's referring to is the result of years of research by UASI, Atlanta's Urban Area Security Initiative. It created Atlanta's Regional Evacuation Plan.
 
The plan covers all types of disaster evacuations, but not winter weather.
 
“We think that elements of that plan that have already been implemented could absolutely be used for all hazards,” Westbrook said.
 
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said last week his task force will use the UASI plan as a starting point in establishing a winter weather plan.
 
"It will be a part of the working group. It will be used as a part of the plans that we will have for a severe weather event,” Reed told the Atlanta Press Club.
 
"This happens every couple of years, so really there's no excuse you can say for not having been ready for this,” says Len Pagano of the disaster-preparedness foundation Safe America.
 
Pagano says you need the plan. Then leaders must be ready and willing to implement it.
 
"We should have dealt with this days before, and if we had, this wouldn't have been such a big problem,” Pagano said.
 
"As emergency managers, we have to be students of disaster,” Westbrook said.
 
Westbrook sent a letter requesting that a member of the local emergency managers association have a seat on Gov. Deal’s severe weather task force. The association was not included.



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