Monday, September 22, 2008


Elyria – Last Sunday Lorain County experienced the remnants of Hurricane Ike – the storm blew through killing a young child, injuring others and knocking out power to thousands for days.

TMC NEWS sat down inside of the Lorain County Emergency Operations Center for a conversation with Tom Kelley, Director of Homeland Security and Emergency Management for Lorain County and Alice Webber, Emergency Operations Manager for Lorain County. The topic: National Preparedness Month.

Kelley said that the Federal Government has designated September as “National Preparedness Month” – trying to get individuals and families to understand that they need to plan for emergencies. “Families need to plan before emergencies – they need to create a plan, make sure everyone in the family knows the plan and most importantly, practice that plan.”

Kelley said that the main disasters that we need to worry about in this area deal with severe weather. “Number one would be flooding, followed closely by severe thunderstorms and tornados. We are also in an area where we need to be ready for a HAZMAT incident. But our goal here is to have the people ready for pretty much anything. For an example, Hurricane Ike and the people in Galveston and those areas where people refused to leave when they were suppose to and then they become part of the problem. The public’s preparedness directly relates upon your communities preparedness abilities too.”

Officials want the pubic to be prepared to evacuate whether the notice is a week in advance or a knock at the door at 3AM telling you to go.

Webber said that one of the items you will need when you leave is documented proof of who you are and that you live where you say you live. “That was one of the problems after Hurricane Katrina, People didn’t have any documentation saying that this was my residence, this is my proof. In order to get their help from FEMA they needed that information. They needed something like a water bill, any utility bill, a birth certificate, any documentation proving who they are.”

The family emergency evacuation kit could be a Rubbermaid tub or a duffle bag Weber said, just as long as it is in the house and ready to go at a moments notice if needed. “Remember it has to be mobile and you should have canned food, bottled water, a can opener, batteries, a portable radio – things you would need to survive until someone could get to you and help.”

Kelley said
that along with the KIT your family should also have a plan in place for any emergency. “Have all of your personal papers ready, have a gathering place outside of the home, and have a relative or someplace that you can go if you have to leave for an extended period of time. We plan for about 30% of the evacuees to go to a shelter; usually everybody else goes someplace else.”

It is also important to have copies of credit cards, everybody’s birth certificates, important phone numbers, and any other important documents that you may need if you are away from your home for an extended period of time. A little cash on hand wouldn’t hurt either.

One recent scare is the Pandemic Flu that Webber said could quarantine a family for 10 days or more. “You should be prepared to be quarantined inside of your home for 10 days without any food being delivered or without any kind of assistance and you will have to sustain yourself for that many days, if not more depending on your family members – if a family member gets sick then you will be quarantined again with them.”

Kelley said people shouldn’t only focus on weather related scenarios for potential disasters. “We sit on one of the busiest highway, railway transportation corridors that carry hazardous materials in the United States – which is the Ohio Turnpike and the railroads that come through the towns. We’re in the flight path for Hopkins Airport – so there are incidents that could occur in a split second that would require residents to evacuate. We have thousands of shipments of Hazardous Materials that go through here everyday, that’s anything from gasoline to extremely hazardous substances. We have chemicals that are used and stored in this county that the minimum evacuation radius is 10 miles around the facility, so you can understand, when you need to move, you NEED to move.”

TMC: So we have chemicals that are being used and stored here in our county, that if there were a spill or an explosion, the evacuation area would be 10 miles?

Kelley: If it were a total worse case release, the minimum evacuation radius around that facility or tanker, would be 10 miles.

TMC: Are we ready for that?

Kelley: Plans are in place to deal with emergencies in the County, but there are different levels that we have to escalate to in the event that it gets bigger then we expect.

For those who think these types of incidents could not happen here, Kelley tells of a case that occurred about a year ago as a train carrying petroleum gas rolled through Lorain County. “A wheel broke on a rail car and started rubbing up against the bottom of the tank car and came within about a half inch of wearing through the tank. If it would have worn through there – the resulting fire and explosion – it would have been devastating, we would have had all kinds of problems. Not only from the initial blast, which would have killed people, probably. The rest of the train would have been involved cause there were numerous tank cars in there – whatever the surrounding area that might become involved, that would be a very large incident. Take a look at Lake County here last spring, they had a derailment, it burnt for20three days, they evacuated how many thousands of people who were all gone for three days. That train came through here. That train came through Lorain County about an hour before that, before the wheel broke there and caused the problem – that could have been us.”

Kelley finished the interview by saying; “If anything keeps me awake at night, it’s that people don’t take this seriously.”

Are you prepared? If not, the Lorain County Emergency Management Agency invites you to pick up the phone and give them a call at 440.329-5117. They will send you, free of charge, a pamphlet with complete details about how to build your emergency evacuation kit. The pamphlet also provides tips about how to create a plan for you and your family in the case of an emergency.

Make the call today – Be PREPARED!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

according to your survey, only one in four people that have not planned for an emergency are going to take the time to do so - like I said, THAT keeps me awake at night.

Tom Kelley

10:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And that's just the ones who have seen this story. Imagine how many more are not ready. Sorry to give you more reason to stay awake Tom. Haas

4:33 PM  

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