By Keith Gushard
Floods, tornadoes and winter storms are Crawford County’s biggest natural disaster threats.
“We look at the situation every year to see what can affect us,” said Allen Clark, director of Emergency Management for the Crawford County Office of Emergency Services.
Between 1985 and 2011, Crawford County experienced six tornadoes; five severe thunderstorm incidents; five winter storm/blizzard emergencies; and two general weather emergencies, according to a report compiled by the county Office of Emergency Services.
In that same time frame, Crawford County had 15 hazardous materials incidents related to transportation because of highway crash and another 11 hazardous materials incidents at a fixed facility such as a manufacturing plant.
“The tornadoes or heavy storms happen about every two or three years,” Clark said. “We can also get damage from straight line winds and down bursts of air.”
The problem with tornadoes/thunderstorms as well as winter storms is power failures lasting four hours or more can happen along with the loss of communication networks for four hours or more. Roads also can be closed for 24 hours or more due to storm damages or flooding.
Crawford County prepares for such emergencies by planning and working local emergency management coordinators who are designated for each of the county’s 51 municipalities, Clark said. Some of the municipalities are starting to bundle together to have a coordinator for region.
“We work on updating emergency plans, meeting with local law enforcement, emergency personnel and Crawford County Amateur Radio Society,” Clark said. “We train local emergency management coordinators and law enforcement on doing damage assessment. The amateur radio society folks are our right hand in a disaster to provide emergency communications if we need it.”
The emergency management arm of the Office of Emergency Services tries to offer training about 12 times a year, Clark said.
“A big part of emergency management also is educating the public,” Clark said. “People should have an emergency supply kit good for at least three days.”
That’s because power may be lost for several days in the event of a disaster or emergency personnel may be helping more severely affected areas of community in the event of a disaster.
“You want to have it well-stocked with non-perishable foods, water, clothing, necessary medications and medical supplies and other items,” Clark said.
A list of what to pack in a kit can be found at redcross.org.
Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Crawford County has received funding to increase emergency preparedness training both as hands-on and within the classroom, Clark said. The enhanced multi-agency training has included things like the simulation of a jet airplane crash at Port Meadville Airport in 2011.
Crawford County also received funding to refurbish a former Crawford Area Transportation Authority bus into a mobile command center. The bus was put into operation by the county in 2011. It’s been used in such diverse operations as searching for missing persons to searching for two bank robbery suspects to use at the Crawford County Fair.
Funding also has paid for a portable regional communications tower available for use if emergency communications in an area go down, Clark said.
Keith Gushard can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.