Madison’s Emergency Manager is exploring options for community shelters

MADISON, Ala. - Steve Perry has been Madison's Emergency Manager for a good part of 2018, and he is planning some changes to the city's emergency management plans that can help keep people safe.

Perry spent 18 years working with Madison Fire and Rescue, and still works under the agency for this new role. In his time, he has spent many a shift covering disaster in one form or another.

"I've handled medical calls, fire calls, responding to the call for Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Ivan," he said. Now, Perry will spend time coordinating plans for preparation and response.

He said he is working with Mayor Paul Finley on a plan to establish community storm shelters.

Last year, Mayor Paul Finley explained his decision to stop using James Clemens High School as a shelter. He said it wasn't a good use of resources because in some cases it took a while to open, and people weren't using it very much. He said at the time that he would look for other options.

Now, that work is underway.

"We want to establish storm shelters within the city. In the surrounding community, We have about 5 that are within driving distance, but we don't have anything right in the city of Madison," said Perry. He urged you to call the Madison main number, (256) 772-5644 (and ask for "Steve Perry") if you know of a place that will work.

"If you have a basement, if you have a facility that we could assist you into making into a storm shelter and you would be willing to open it up, I would love to talk to you," he urged.

Perry said that the budget that the Madison City Council passed at its last meeting will help fund the cost of supplying those shelters, if he is able to establish any.

Another big part of Perry's job is preparedness, and he says you can expect to see him out and about in Madison over the next year hammering home that message to families too.

"I want every citizen that lives in Madison, and every family that lives in Madison, to be prepared," he said. "3-5 days worth of food, water, those things you would need just in case."

He plans to be at the Madison Street Festival, for instance, to get out the word about preparedness tips. He said they'll be giving out a few weather alert radios and sharing examples of items that should be in every family's emergency kit.

"The more you can do as a citizen or as a family, the less that someone has to do for you during your time of need," he said.

Perry is already working with new software that allows him to track weather systems and provide proper advice to government officials during emergencies like big storms.

He is also creating a government continuity plan to keep the city running if something happens to City Hall during a weather event or other emergency scenario.

"Part of this is preparing the city to be able to continue functions," he said. "It's a work in progress. Right now I am talking with each department head on their needs, and once those are completed then we put it together and at least we know the requirements. Size of facility they'll need, the number of vehicles, IT support. Those kinds of things."

Perry said it's all about preparedness around the city.

"It's our number one threat in the city of Madison: tornadoes," he said.

But he hopes the steps Madison is taking now can make citizens feel more at ease.

"I put myself in their situation," he explained. "Just knowing shelters are there would give me a reassuring feeling." He added that they're doing this because they care.