SHIAWASSEE COUNTY Emergency Management and Homeland Security Director Trent Atkins (holding microphone) and Sheriff Brian BeGole spoke during the Greater Durand Area Chamber of Commerce annual dinner on Thursday, April 18. Atkins, who was introduced by Sheriff BeGole as “the godfather of emergency management” in the state, spoke about the tornados that touched down in Shiawassee County on Thursday, March 14 and the ongoing recovery efforts.
Atkins played a slideshow containing overhead pictures of damage inflicted by the tornados while he spoke, and he used his 15 minutes to inform those in attendance about the county’s mass notification system, “Smart911.”
“This is the way we let you know that severe weather is coming,” explained Atkins, “or God forbid we have an another event like a few weeks ago and we need to get emergency information to you, this is how we do it. You can choose what information you want to provide, and it is confidential, so you don’t have to worry about that, but it is very important.”
To sign up for Smart911, residents can go to www.smart911.com or text “SMART911” to 67283. Once registered, residents will receive emergency alerts from Shiawassee County 911 and targeted alerts from the National Weather Service.
Atkins went on to provide a behind-the-scenes account of his experiences on the night of March 14, with stories of victims sprinkled in. He praised the efforts of Shiawassee County emergency responders, as well as Team Rubicon, the Michigan Volunteer Defense Force and the many agencies, churches and individuals who were instrumental in the county’s quick recovery following the tornados. Atkins also spoke about the county being turned down for emergency relief.
“On Friday, March 15, the day after, I looked at another guy at the command post in Vernon and said, ‘Our community is putting us out of business,’” shared Atkins. “Anytime we had a need, people were showing up. Before coming to Shiawassee County I worked in the city, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a tractor show up to one of my disasters in the city of Lansing. We had fire fighters from all over Shiawassee County who showed up to help, we had people and businesses volunteering their services; the response from our community was fantastic.
“You know, it was unfortunate we did not get a state declaration out of this, but you know, I’ve been in emergency management for 30 years and I try not to let those things get me down,” continued Atkins. “And honestly, I would rather have the state of Michigan say, ‘Look, your community did too good of a job’ than to have them say we did a terrible job. I think that’s the message that we take. This community came together, and we’re not going to let this get us down.”
(Independent Photo/Graham Sturgeon)