Members of the Franklin County Emergency Management Agency began laying the groundwork to create a countywide Community Organizations Active in Disasters group as about 30 individuals met on Wednesday afternoon in St. Clair City Hall.

The purpose of organizing and mobilizing a COAD is “to get people and organizations together, get to know each other and to create a one-stop shop in case of a disaster,” said Stephanie Hulsey, program administrator for Franklin County Emergency Management Agency. “We need to find out who offers what services and how we can best help a community when there is some kind of disaster. We need to put everyone and everything in one place and work together as we help people.”

Hulsey said the idea is to make sure all needed services readily are available and easy to access during any kind of emergency but also not to duplicate or complicate them.

“We will be taking steps to build a stronger partnership with those organizations that will be assisting our communities following a natural or manmade disaster,” Hulsey said in a letter inviting individuals to attend the first meeting.

According to information passed out during the meeting, a COAD “enhances the ability for all communities involved to mitigate, prepare for, respond to and recover from disasters.”

Attending Wednesday’s meeting were emergency responders and law enforcement from St. Clair and representatives from various service organizations and agencies in the area, such as the Red Cross, Salvation Army, Crider Health Center and Franklin County Area United Way.

“I wanted a very informal, relaxed first meeting to get people talking and get feedback on what people thought of forming a COAD and some of the goals they had,” Hulsey told The Missourian. “I think the discussions were appropriate, and some great ideas and starting points were shared.”

Despite the initial meeting taking place in St. Clair, both Hulsey and EMA Director Abe Cook said the group is for and will service the entire county.

“These (COADs) are being developed across the state,” Hulsey said. “St. Clair has opened their arms to this. But we want all of the county to be involved.”

Cook and Hulsey said COADs do not provide direct services, but provide a network through which individual organizations can more effectively address their mission and service goals during all phases of a disaster.

As a central meeting place for the time being, St. Clair City Hall will continue to house monthly meetings through the end of the year. In the near future, the group will organize, come up with plans of attack, put together bylaws and elect officers.

Information states that COAD members believe that community leadership, both public and private, should be utilized in planning, directing and implementing the disaster recovery. A chart showed the COAD being the centerpoint with offshoots to mass care, long-term recovery, spiritual care, volunteer coordination and donations coordination.

The next two meetings have been scheduled for 1 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 20, and Wednesday, Dec. 18.

For more information, call Cook or Hulsey at 636-583-1679.