BENTON -- In the event of an emergency in Scott County, the county jail is the first place to look for leadership.
County officials and volunteers involved in county emergency response operations met as a group for the first time Thursday.
"We're going to try to do that every couple of months," said Joe Burton, emergency management director for Scott County, during Tuesday's regular county commission meeting.
Burton said Thursday's meeting will be the first in a series of meetings related to organizing duties and responsibilities in the event of an emergency.
"We are one of the few counties that are doing that," Commissioner Dennis Ziegenhorn noted.
During the meeting, officials designated the Scott County Jail as the primary emergency operations center. Ziegenhorn said the jail is "one of the few buildings that is seismically designed in the county."
The first meeting was intentionally small but future meetings will add more and more personnel, according to Burton.
Officials also discussed the need for a mobile emergency operations center for cold weather situations and the need to designate secondary sites.
Ziegenhorn said a site should be designated for each community for local incidents.
Burton suggested schools could serve as the secondary sites as they are already designated as staging areas.
In other business during Tuesday's meeting:
* Burton reported the new dispatching center at the county jail is almost ready.
Officials are moving all E-911 dispatching operations from the call center in Morley to the new dispatch center. Homeland Security grant funding is also being used to upgrade dispatching equipment.
"The equipment is in and it's all programmed," Burton said. This week technicians will be running tests, he said, "and Monday we're going to try it - shut that one down and turn this one on."
Burton confirmed paperwork to comply with grant requirements must be submitted to the Department of Homeland Security by Nov. 30.
"Everything looks good, it's working fine," Burton said. "It's going to work out really well."
* An emergency management roundtable meeting on earthquake preparedness hosted by U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson's office is scheduled for Dec. 1 at Southeast Missouri State University, according to Burton.
"They want to do a full-scale exercise," he said, adding it will probably be held in a year or two.
Burton said he would like to see programs for county residents which not only inform about how earthquakes happen but how to prepare for them.
"When the earthquake center at SEMO was open we had someone doing that," he recalled. "It was a good resource for us."
* Commissioners heard a presentation from one more food service and commissary vendor. Commissioners also heard three presentations Thursday.
"We've been talking with several food service managers," said Presiding Commissioner Martin Priggel. Some of the vendors who did presentations are offering just commissary services for the jail, some have just food service, and some are able to provide both.
Food service and commissary bids will be considered separately although "some company could get them both," Priggel said.
Using information gathered during the presentations, Shawn Wood, office manager for the Scott County Sheriff's Department, will draw up specifications for the request for proposals.
"We've learned something every time we've talked to someone," said Commissioner Jamie Burger.