On any given day we could have been at OSU or Gatlinburg.
Events within the past week have had a strong emotional impact for members of our small communities. How many people within our community know someone who attends The Ohio State University? How many people within our community have memories of vacationing in Gatlinburg, Tennessee? How we prepare while at home can save our lives when we travel to destinations that we love.
We have a luxury of living in a relatively small and quiet county. However, that doesn’t mean we should pass off planning for emergencies with the mantra, “That will never happen to me.” It can happen to you on any given day, in any given setting. Preparing yourself at home, allows you to build reactive memories that can keep you safe when you are out of your normal element.
In a previous op-ed I wrote about my wedding day; a day that should hold nothing more than fun, laughter, and spending time with friends and family. At an instant, I was telling all of my guests that we have to take shelter because a tornado was heading straight for our venue in Piqua. Now, I know we all get complacent with the warning and watches that pop up on the bottom of our television screens. This was not the case; there was an EF0 tornado on the ground within proximity. One-hundred and sixty closest friends and family were just put into a situation they had no expectation of ever being in. However, we all managed to calmly evacuate to safety, and in a matter of minutes.
Now if a tornado on your wedding day isn’t bad enough, six days prior I was on a charter bus on my way home from Indianapolis. While traveling down the road, our bus had started experiencing some engine troubles. Within a matter of minutes passengers started seeing white smoke, which turned to black smoke. Passengers in the back of the bus started to shout “FIRE!” The instincts that we were taught in grade school to leave your belongings and get to safety kicked in. Two minutes later I watched the bus I was just travelling on engulfed in flames, with personal and business property still on board. I should have bought a lottery ticket, because I should have known that was going to be my lucky week.
Bringing this column full circle, it is the responsibility of the individual to prepare themselves for these unlikely events. Our local first responders work very hard to plan for events that we hope to never encounter. But in the case of a large-scale emergency or natural disaster, it may take up to three days before a first responder may get to you. That is why it is necessary for you have three days of emergency supplies that can be evacuated with you.
At Ohio State, the initial incident started at 9:53 a.m. and was over at 9:53 a.m. The first Buckeye Alert that stated, “Buckeye Alert: Active Shooter on campus. Run Hide Fight. Watts Hall. 19th and College” was posted at 9:55 a.m. That is amazingly fast to spread that information to a campus of 50,000 students. It was simultaneously posted to the Ohio State University Emergency Management Agency’s Facebook page. And through a social media snowball became a trending topic on twitter in just minutes. Columbus is just an hour and half away, with many of our friends and family living in the area. How easily could this have happened while you were there?
Did you that Shelby County has its own version of a Buckeye Alert? Shelby County utilizes the HyperReach Emergency Notification system, which can do the exact same thing in an emergency. And it’s so simple to subscribe to. All you need to do is call 937-265-8400, and that phone is instantly subscribed. The Shelby County Emergency Management Agency also has a Facebook page, which can be found by typing @ShelbyCoEMA in the search function. By subscribing to our page, you will receive weather alerts posted directly from the NWS alerts for Shelby County. Also by subscribing to our Facebook page, we not only can help you, but you can help us. You can upload imagery, and inform us of impacted areas.
Many of our county’s citizens have sentimental attachment to Gatlinburg. Some go there on an annual vacations, have honeymooned there, and have even been married there. Much of the city and surrounding forests have been decimated by wildfires. Before you travel, let family know where you are going and for how long you are planning to be there. If you find yourselves in an emergency, get to safety immediately. Don’t worry about having another four days on your cabin rental. That can be replaced. You can’t. Once you reach safety, let your family know that you are OK. It helps keep accountability, and allows first responders to focus on ending the threat.
If you have questions or would like training on how to prepare yourself for the various threats we may face on any given day, let us know! We would be happy to create trainings, or get you the information you desire. And if we don’t have it, we can help you find the agencies that may be better suited for you. The Shelby County Emergency Management Agency can be contacted by phone at 937-482-5635, or by email at Shelbycountyema@gmail.com. We can also be reached through the Facebook page.
First responders plan and train very hard to keep our community safe. You can assist them, by creating your own emergency plan, and together we can we keep Shelby County safe.
The writer is an emergency management specialist with the Shelby County EMA.