Software lets emergency officials locate special-needs citizens in case of disaster


Last Updated on July 31, 2015 – 10:01 AM CDT

Above: Emergency Management Coordinator Tommy Brooks, sitting, and Tim Nicholson work on the software that will allow them to locate citizens who would need assistance during an evacuation. (Steve Ramos/Moore County Journal)

Imagine your neighborhood has to be evacuated because of a natural or man-made disaster. You pack up your family and go to a designated shelter or to a relative’s home. Now imagine you’re handicapped. Maybe you can’t drive anymore because of deteriorating vision, or you’re in a wheelchair. What do you do?

“We have new software that, if we know where our handicapped citizens live, we can get to them immediately and help them evacuate,” said Moore County Emergency Management Coordinator Tommy Brooks. “Were in the process of documenting the locations of all the people in Dumas, Sunray and Cactus who would need help in case of an evacuation. We want to be able to get to them quickly and be prepared with the necessary equipment to help them.”

Moore County recently purchased damage assessment software, and one of the system’s bonuses is that it allows Brooks to input the addresses of all the people with handicaps or special needs who would need assistance in the event of a disaster. The information remains in a secure database and is never made public, Brooks said.

“Providing us with the information is voluntary, but we hope people will take advantage of this assistance,” Brooks said. “If anyone has questions, we can go tot their homes and speak with them about the program, or their family members can call us, and we can explain what we’re doing to them.”

In the event of a disaster, Brooks said he can pull up a map that shows the addresses of everyone who would need assistance, but it goes a little further.

“Not everyone has the same need,” he said. “I don’t want to send a police officer to help someone who is bedridden. He won’t be equipped to help that person. I need to send an ambulance.”

The information also is available to Brooks even if he’s out of town. He can pull up the maps on his phone and direct law enforcement and first responders to the people who need assistance.

“This could save lives,” Brooks said. “We hope people will call us and let us put their information in our database, so we can help them if there’s ever a need to evacuate the area they live in. We hope we never have to evacuate, but we have to be prepared in case we do.”

Anyone who would like more information about the program can call Brooks at 806-934-9520.