SIDNEY — Concerns about public safety during a weather emergency were brought to Sidney City Council during its meeting Monday night.
Ron Thurber, who is a driver for the Shelby County Public Transit, said while he was doing his route on Monday, the tornado sirens went off.
“I called dispatch for our protocol (for weather emergencies) and she said there is none,” said Thurber.
So Thurber continued his route to Longfellow Elementary School where he was to pick up four students.
“Sidney Schools had let the students out early,” said Thurber. “As I was approaching Longfellow, the sirens were on and out came the four students to get onto my bus.”
Thurber said another driver also called the dispatcher and received the same response that there is no protocol for weather emergencies.
“Public safety should be a priority,” said Thurber. “Why is there no protocol in place for when the tornado warning sirens go off?”
He said council and law enforcement should establish designated places for the drivers and buses to go where they will be in a sheltered area during a weather emergency. Local businesses, he said, could be asked if the buses could be parked there during an emergency.
Sidney Mayor Mike Barhorst said he will look into the matter.
On the transit system’s webpage, which is located on the city of Sidney’s website, it states: “For the safety of our passengers and drivers, during adverse weather conditions, the decision may be made by management to limit the booking of rides to essential trips only. In extreme conditions, the service may be closed.”
Sidney City Manager Mark Cundiff said Tuesday afternoon that the current policy manual for the transit system is several years old.
“We are required by both the State of Ohio and the Federal Transit Administration to have a policy regarding operation in inclement weather,” said Cundiff via email. “We have been in the process of updating our Policy Manual for the last several months, and have a final draft version of the Manual. Last month the State of Ohio reviewed and approved this updated Manual. This update provides much more detailed policies, including the one regarding operation in inclement weather.”
The updated manual will now be reviewed by the Transit Advisory Committee (TAC) for them to make a recommendation to Cundiff to adopt the updated Manual.
“This action is expected to occur at the next TAC meeting, and I will adopt the new Manual and we will begin to train the Transit employees,” said Cundiff.
“The drivers are asked to use their best judgment and to keep in contact with dispatch during inclement weather,” he said. “Our dispatchers can keep track of storms via weather radar and each transit vehicle is equipped with GIS so the dispatchers can see where they are located. If a dispatcher sees that a driver is headed towards severe weather, they would alert them to turn around.”
The transit system is funded by the city of Sidney, Shelby County Commissioners, ODOT Office of Transit, and the Federal Transit Adminstration.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4822; follow her on Twitter @MelSpeicherSDN. Follow the SDN on Facebook, www.facebook.com/SidneyDailyNews.