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Weather, flu, more discussed in EMA meeting

Butler County EMA director Kris Ware presided over a meeting on February 1 that brought together county officials, first responders, and citizens to discuss issues related to emergency preparation.

The first presentation was led by Southern Linc representative Robert Brownell, who gave a presentation on the company’s transition to 4G and production of new devices for government workers and first responders.

The prototype devices brought by Brownell were heavy and reportedly water-resistant.

The devices will still have functioning push-to-talk functionality alongside smart phone features such as internet access.

According to Brownell, the “Mission Critical” push-to-talk implemented into government phones represents the first time a company has developed a smart phone with built-in push-to-talk capabilities.

The transition will reportedly begin around August 2018, and the old iDEN devices will lose most functionality as of January 2019.

The next section of meeting was an update on the flu outbreak by Peggly Hagler of the Department of Public Health.

According to the Alabama Department of Public Health, 53 people in the state have died due to the flu as of January 31.

Three of these deaths are from the DPH’s Southeastern area, which includes Butler County.

Hagler stressed the importance of getting vaccinated, and explained how the flu vaccine is remade each year from the four most prevalent flu strains from the previous year.

Hagler also pointed out that the vaccine can potentially make flu symptoms less severe if the illness is contracted.

DPH reports indicate that conditions in county hospitals are improving, particularly concerning the number of patients admitted due to the flu.

Several hospitals are still suffering from lack of supplies and staff shortages due to sickness. 

The county’s response to the Inga snow/ice storm was also discussed, particularly concerning the condition of roads during the days after the snow.

Butler County Sheriff Kenny Harden said that he noticed “[fewer] wrecks when the roads were declared impassable… and immediately more when they were declared opened but passable.” Harden also said that county officials and first responders communicated well in the face of an upsurge in traffic and other incidents.

No traffic fatalities were reported in Butler County during the winter storm.