TheTimesTribune.com, Corbin, KY

CNHI Special Projects

May 13, 2013

Preparation now is priceless, when seconds count later

PART 3 OF 5: Lessons Learned

CORBIN — By Jeff Noble / staff writer

For most of us, we don’t think about disaster preparation until after it strikes.

We read, see and hear the vivid images of destruction and suffering that plays in print, online, on TV and on radio. Those moments can stay seared in our minds for days or forever.

But to those who respond to disasters, and work behind the scenes in the Tri-County region, the preparation has paid off.

In Corbin, Fire Chief Barry McDonald has been “stocking up” for some time with items needed to fill some big spaces. That’s in case company comes due to a tornado, a major flood, or earthquake, or other possible disaster.

“This week, we received 200 emergency and disaster blankets donated from a local company, 2J Supply. We’ll get two pallets of blankets a week from them, and we might be able to get bottled water and cots as well. If we get more we’ll pass them on to other agencies, after we’re stocked,” he said Thursday.

Working with the American Red Cross, McDonald noted Corbin has at least three active disaster shelters in the city — The McBurney Center, the Corbin Civic Center on Gordon Hill Pike and Immanuel Baptist Church — and is working on getting three more set up. Two of the three are larger churches, and the last one is the Corbin Arena. He pointed out size and amenities matter, especially if shelters have multiple bathrooms and showers, along with kitchens and gymnasiums.

In London, the Laurel County Fire Department is one of the designated tornado shelters in that city, while West London Baptist Church and the First Baptist Church in Williamsburg have registered and trained their congregations to open as Red Cross disaster centers.

The Red Cross disaster director in London, Coy Prichard, encourages other churches and civic groups to do the same.

“To be a Red Cross shelter the facility needs a structure survey to determine size and safety, and then a signed agreement that’s good for one year. In return, we will provide training and insurance. To work in a Red Cross shelter an individual must be registered and have completed the Red Cross background check. We maintain an active shelter list for facilities across the nation, and in the Tri-County region, so we know where we can open a shelter as quickly as possible,” Prichard said.

Not only are structures checked for disaster shelters these days. Building codes have been strengthened in some Kentucky cities, with London being one of them. The city’s building inspector, Doug Gilbert, stated it’s a lesson learned from not just tornadoes, but another natural disaster which could be at fault.

“All the buildings that I’ve checked now in the city have become built to sustain an earthquake. We do the seismic loads for earthquakes now. That’s good, because buildings now are engineered for wind speeds of 90 miles per hour. They were 70 miles per hour when I started in the 1990s. With building construction now, everything’s beefed up for 90 miles per hour wind speed, and that helps if there is a tornado, high winds, or an earthquake,” Gilbert said.

Getting the word out about tornadoes and major severe weather continues to be a top priority. McDonald said Corbin has eight warning sirens located across the city, with all of them repaired and overhauled last fall. Along with the refurbishing, the city’s fire chief added there was also some fine tuning done.

“Before they were overhauled last fall, the sirens went off every time there was a severe thunderstorm watch or warning, and other watches. Now, they just go off only for tornado warnings. We’ve also gone to schools, civic groups and other organizations and have done talks about severe weather safety. And we’re encouraging people to buy weather radios, which many are now ‘all-hazards’ radios, that not just give severe weather information, but information about chemical spills, major disasters and even Amber Alerts. We’re much better prepared now than in previous years, and we’ll continue to strive to improve,” McDonald said.

Recently, London City Council heard about two plans for alerting its residents. One was a network of nine emergency and disaster sirens covering the most populated areas of the city. Another was the use of a phone or web-connected computer system such as One Call Now or Code Red. Both are emergency notification systems that can issue warnings and emergency information to London residents anytime and anywhere. The systems can also be used citywide, or be targeted for specific locations.

Laurel County is one of the counties involved in CSEPP (the state’s Chemical Stockpile Emergency Preparedness Program), who has offered to pay for the phone call warnings system at $33,000 a year.

London’s public safety director, Rick Cochrane, likes the Code Red system, which he says has one distinct advantage over sirens — more bang for your buck.

“It’s not that we’re ditching the warning sirens. We’re still looking at putting in the new sirens in London, but that does not include the county. With a siren, if you can hear it could depend on where you live, or how the wind’s blowing, or if you’re not at home. You really need to target large areas like trailer parks, because they get the hardest hit by tornadoes. And they’re expensive, with the price for one large siren around $40,000. At one time, we wanted to put a warning siren at every fire station in the country, but we couldn’t get Homeland Security funding. Unlike matching grants, where you have to pay a price to ‘match’ the grant, a Homeland Security grant comes around once a year, you get all of it, and everyone wants it. And they do favor cities and counties with large populations, like Louisville and Jefferson County. Funding’s an issue,” Cochrane explained.

While CSEPP does not have a warning siren in Laurel County, the county’s CSEPP coordinator, Rob Lowe, said there’s a reason for that.

“It’s not a warning siren for tornadoes or weather emergencies. We don’t have a warning siren in this county because there’s no threat from chemical spills to Laurel County from the Blue Grass Army Depot near Richmond,” he stated.

But Lowe added those Red Cross shelters and other disaster facilities could be used in Laurel County, if there is a possible chemical spill from the Army Depot.

“We would receive the citizens in the Bluegrass area of Rockcastle, Madison and Estill counties in the event of a chemical evacuation, which is highly unlikely. Some 40,000 people could be moved to Laurel County, but we anticipate our target range is about 5,000 citizens,” he said.

While budgeting and grant availability has been a concern for city agencies and volunteer groups, CSEPP hasn’t had that problem. And Lowe pointed out their group goes beyond their original purpose.

“Because of the chemical weapons plant near Richmond, we’re funded by Congress. We prepare a budget every year and we get a guaranteed grant. We will get money until the weapons are destroyed. But even though we’re primarily a chemical hazards organization, we’re an all-hazards organization. We have the equipment, the personnel and the capability to help in any emergency. Last year, with the exception of a small backup unit that stayed for chemical emergencies, all our resources went to East Bernstadt at the request of the judge-executive. We were there to help out after the tornado hit, and stayed for days and weeks. We were prepared, and helped in the recovery effort.”

1
Text Only
CNHI Special Projects
  • Is Kentucky all shook up?

    Shortly after noon on Saturday, Nov. 10, the ground shook all over the Tri-County region.

    May 29, 2013

  • Preparing for mid-America earthquake

    It’s a bleak scenario. A massive earthquake along the New Madrid fault kills or injures 60,000 people in Tennessee.

    May 29, 2013

  • Norman-Tornado16.jpg Audio: How can we better prepare for tornadoes?

    An NPR broadcast examines the question of how communities can better prepare for tornadoes like the one that struck Moore, Okla. on Monday. The broadcast features commentary from Michael Fitzgerald, who reported a five-part disaster series for the CNHI News Service.

    May 22, 2013 1 Photo

  • Norman-Tornado08.jpg Photos: Aftermath of massive tornado in Moore Storm victims were pulled from the rubble and residents began surveying the damage late Monday and early Tuesday in the Oklahoma City suburb of Moore, where a powerful tornado destroyed entire neighborhoods and left dozens dead.

    May 21, 2013

  • More options, several ways to be alerted

    Getting the word out about severe weather and other disasters has come a long way from the Cold War era of the 1950s and early 1960s.

    May 20, 2013

  • Technology speeds disaster alerts, response

    Caitria O’Neill remembers her reaction to hearing tornado warnings on June 1, 2011. She went to the grocery store, she said, “because I live in Massachusetts, and we don’t get tornadoes.”

    May 20, 2013

  • MainStory5.IndyQuakeDrill.jpg The Big One: Preparing for mid-America earthquake

    It’s a bleak scenario. A massive earthquake along the New Madrid fault kills or injures 60,000 people in Tennessee. A quarter of a million people are homeless.

    May 19, 2013 3 Photos 3 Stories

  • screenshot salmon.jpg VIDEO: How sequestration could affect US flood warning system

    Oregon and Idaho each had to shut down three water gauges due to automatic budget cuts, known as sequestration. Watch how Idaho relies on these water gauges, from tracking drought conditions to determining stream levels for salmon.

    May 15, 2013 1 Photo

  • Preparation now is priceless, when seconds count later

    For most of us, we don’t think about disaster preparation until after it strikes. We read, see and hear the vivid images of destruction and suffering that plays in print, online, on TV and on radio. Those moments can stay seared in our minds for days or forever.

    May 13, 2013

  • Veterans of tornadoes balance preparedness and practicality

    Few things in nature are less predictable than a tornado. They can form quickly. They strike weirdly, leveling one building while leaving its neighbor untouched. They can fling a car a half-mile and turn a piece of lumber into a wall-piercing missile.

    May 13, 2013

Front page
NDN Video
Jenny McCarthy Engaged to "New Kid" Kate and Will Land in Oz Boston Bomb Scare Defendant Appears in Court Bay Area Teen Gets Prom Date With Help From 'Breaking Bad' Star Behind The Tanlines Jersey Strong Part 1 WATCH: Women Fight To Marry Prince Harry! O’Reilly Launches Preemptive Strike Against CBS Pixar Unveils Easter Eggs From its Biggest Movies Baby Sloths Squeak for Their Cuddle Partners in Adorable Video Miley Cyrus Hospitalized After Severe Reaction To Medicine Raw: Ferry Sinks Off South Korean Coast Toddler climbs into vending machine 8-year-old Boy Gets His Wish: Fly Like Iron Man Much-Anticipated 'Gone Girl' Trailer Finally Debuts! (VIDEO) Dog and Toddler Wear Matching Outfits in Adorable Photo Series VP Biden: "World witnesses ordinary citizens doing extraordinary things" It's Official! Michael Strahan Joins "GMA" Blood Moon Time-lapse Actress Lake Bell Goes Topless The Five Weirdest Local Taxes in America
AP Video
Disbanding Muslim Surveillance Draws Praise Hundreds Missing After South Korean Ferry Sinks Passengers Abuzz After Plane Hits Swarm of Bees Boston Bomb Scare Defendant Appears in Court Pistorius Trial: Adjourned Until May 5 Diaz Gets Physical for New Comedy Raw: Ferry Sinks Off South Korean Coast Town, Victims Remember Texas Blast Freeze Leaves Florida Panhandle With Dead Trees At Boston Marathon, a Chance to Finally Finish Are School Dress Codes Too Strict? Raw: Fatal Ferry Boat Accident Suspicious Bags Found Near Marathon Finish Line Boston Marks the 1st Anniversary of Bombing NYPD Ends Muslim Surveillance Program 8-year-old Boy Gets His Wish: Fly Like Iron Man Sex Offenders Arrested in Slayings of CA Women India's Transgenders Celebrate Historic Ruling Tributes Mark Boston Bombing Anniversary Raw: Kan. Shooting Suspect Faces Judge
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Twitter Updates
Follow us on twitter
Facebook