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Franklin County EMA prepares for COVID-19

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FRANKLIN CO. (WSIL) -- The Franklin County Emergency Management Agency is preparing COVID-19 response efforts at the Rend Lake Visitor Center.

The county's EMA director, Ryan Buckingham, says staff started working on the emergency operations center prior to Illinois' stay-at-home order. The group is in charge of developing strategies to contain the virus.

"We have to look at the whole community concept, the big picture of the emergency," Buckingham said.

The operations center acts as a central hub of communication and information for the entire county. Staff set up three screens to monitor cases across the globe and the state along with news reports.

"It's important that we monitor the whole picture of the situation to understand where we're going to be in the coming days," Buckingham said.

Buckingham says they coordinate with local fire and police departments in the county to provide help. Fire officials in Benton set up a medical tent at Franklin Hospital to prepare for an influx of cases, if necessary.

"We're handling the problems that we have immediately to deal with," Buckingham said. "We're also anticipating what this pandemic can bring to our local area."

Last week, residents in Perry County were picking up the pieces after a pair of tornadoes struck the area. Buckingham says severe weather won't hamper any progress made, but it will add to the workload.

"The world doesn't stop turning even though there's a whole pandemic in place," Buckingham said.

While the focus remains on protecting the county's residents, Buckingham is also looking for ways to protect first-responders who are facing the pandemic head on, like obtaining personal protective equipment.

Last Friday, the Franklin County Board issued a disaster declaration to last for one week. Buckingham says the board plans to extend that declaration at its next meeting on Friday.

Danny Valle

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