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EMA introduces new safety program as severe weather awareness week kicks off Sunday

The Calhoun County Emergency Management Agency has a new program that coincides with the start of the state’s Severe Weather Awareness Week

The week-long weather preparedness event starts Sunday, followed by a tax-free purchase weekend Feb. 21 for safety equipment, including items such as batteries, weather radios, tarps, plywood and fire extinguishers, as well as some portable generators. County EMA director Michael Barton told members of the Calhoun County Commission during its Thursday morning meeting that his agency is introducing a new program called “Preparedness Partners,” which will give free help to local organizations — businesses, churches, schools and any other groups — to make their locations severe weather-safe. 

“They go through a self-paced program that features five different phases of readiness that we’ll guide them through to get their organization better prepared for disaster,” Barton said before the meeting. “It’s a local initiative out of our office, but it will complement the statewide initiative.” 

The fifth phase, testing, will include a visit from EMA staff for trial runs of safety plans created in earlier phases. Barton said that in spite of the program starting during Severe Weather Awareness Week, it’s not only focused on tornadoes and flooding. Other hazards can include fires, active shooting incidents and cyber security breaches, he said. 

“We make our emergency managers available to them, to come out and advise on things, to call us on the phone ... We offer our resources to come in and help design drills and exercises to test their readiness and give them feedback,” Barton said. 

Commission members made a proclamation recognizing Severe Weather Awareness Week during the meeting. 

Those interested in signing up for the Preparedness Partners program can visit and click the link on the page to register, or call the EMA at 256-435-0540. A full list of tax-free weekend items can be found at

During its meeting, the Calhoun County Commission: 

— Accepted a bid from Galls LLC to supply uniforms and footwear for deputies, the only bid received. 

— Approved the designation of a 1989 Chevy flatbed truck, a 2001 Dodge Ram and a Kubota tractor as surplus to be sold on

— Contracted with Southern Real Estate to purchase about 77.79 acres of land near Nesbit Lake Road for $170,900 to use as a chert pit for the county. County engineer Brian Rosenbalm said chert, a type of rock, is essential to road maintenance in the county, and given that rock prices have been steadily climbing over the last decade, the purchase of the pit would create a lasting benefit in the county for decades. 

“Our grandkids will see the benefit of this,” Rosenbalm said. 

Assistant Metro Editor Ben Nunnally: 256-235-3560.