August 8, 2003 marked the 100th day since overt military action ended in Iraq. Europe was gripped in the middle of a heat wave so severe, that Pope John Paul II urged people to pray for rain. Arnold Schwarzenegger was just beginning his campaign to become governor of California. Yuri Malenchenko was making final preparations to travel to the International Space Station, where he would become the first person to get married in space.
Locally, an important event took place at the Anniston Chemical Agent Disposal Facility. An aging GB M-55 rocket was placed on a conveyor to head into the rocket shear machine, beginning the process of the destruction of chemical weapons at the Anniston Army Depot. The Army's mission was to destroy all nerve and blister agents stored at the Depot, in accordance with a treaty signed at the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction. On September 22, 2011, Depot employees completed the destruction of the chemical weapons stockpile at the Anniston Army Depot.
The destruction of the chemical agents brought the Chemical Stockpile Emergency Preparedness Program, better known as CSEPP, to Etowah County. CSEPP is the result of a partnership between the Army and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). It was created to help communities near chemical destruction facilities to prepare for emergencies that could result in the event of an accident. Through this partnership, and with the cooperation of local emergency management and responders, communities were able to prepare sufficiently for the worst.
In Etowah County, CSEPP provided the means for the Gadsden/Etowah County EMA to expand its staff. The EMA's Emergency Operations Center was upgraded with new, sophisticated equipment. It also provided funds for the Medical Emergency Operations Center, located at Northeast Regional Airport in Gadsden. Greater coverage of outdoor warning sirens was accomplished thanks to CSEPP. Training made responders, and citizens alike more aware of community hazards, and how to appropriately respond to them. CSEPP also helped citizens, schools, hospitals and businesses in Etowah County receive a free weather radio to be used for emergency warnings for all hazards. Portable message boards, traffic barricades, and field response equipment are just a few of the other resources provided to our community thanks to CSEPP.
The lessons learned from CSEPP should not be forgotten. Do you still have your shelter-in-place kit? Keep it. A major chemical accident in our community, such as the one that occurred as a result of a train accident in Talladega County in 2006, could cause the need to shelter-in-place. Has your family made an emergency supply kit, and a family emergency plan? Don't discard those either. These things will help your family be prepared for any emergency.