Friday July 20th, 2018 4:16PM

Former GEMA director talks the importance of planning for Tropical Storm Irma

By Alyson Shields Reporter

Hurricane Irma was downgraded to a tropical storm Monday morning, but North Georgians are still feeling the effects of the storm as it moves through the Southeast.

Former Georgia Emergency Management Director Jim Butterworth spoke on the importance of having a plan during natural emergency on Bill and Joel Morning Show.

"The phases a team has to work through when it comes to emergency management is the planning phase, the preparation phase and as the storm rolls in you kind of hunker down for a while and then you're in to the response and recovery. And then the whole this sort of starts all over again," Butterworth said.

"There's a plan on the shelf literally for every scenario. Believe it or not, there's one for hurricane landfall and also the further inland effects," said Butterworth.

Butterworth described one hurdle first responders face is basic needs while responding. Members of the National Guard and other responders may only get bottled water and MREs (Meal Ready to Eat packets) to sustain them. "You have to put those plans in place, you have to put those logistics in place," Butterworth said.

Georgia Power and other utility companies are working with first responders to keep the power on. "When your power goes out, everybody is aware of it," Butterworth said. "There will probably be power outages from this storm. Getting that back on and getting it going is critical."

All of the teams, Butterworth said, have the logistical support to work through.

Butterworth now works as a pilot for Delta Airlines and will fly from Cleveland to Atlanta to San Antonio Monday. He said the airlines too have a plan for weather like this.

"Delta and other airlines have cancelled a number of flights to thin out," he said. "On a less than ideal day, the traffic flow decreases so you have to have that decreased number. There are a number of other layers of responses in place. We'll put a little more fuel on the airplane if we need to divert to a different airport, whatever the case may be. The airplanes have really high crosswind limitations. We get in a simulator and practice those on a regular basis."

Butterworth said when it comes to storm aftermath issues, like looting, there's a plan for that too. He said Col. Mark McDonough works alongside local law enforcement to keep order. "Sheriff's have skin in the game and they want their counties and their local folks to be safe." Butterworth also reminded that Governor Deal has already addressed price gouging in the state for things like gasoline. But overall, he said there were controls in place to try and keep things like looting from happening. 

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