The Livingston County Commission met with employees of the Livingston County Courthouse and area emergency personnel to discuss steps toward better emergency preparedness yesterday (Monday) afternoon.
Chillicothe Fire Chief Darrell Wright said the importance of emergency management has been on the rise in recent years.
"Emergency management is probably the fastest growing thing," Wright said. "I've been doing this for 30-some years, and we used to really joke about emergency management. Now, I spend most of my time in emergency management with meetings. It's where all the money's at, it's where all the grants come from."
Wright went on to explain how emergency management goes well-beyond preparing a community for storms.
"It's not just weather here," Wright said. "It's security issues, it's cyber stuff we're looking at. It's amazing how people can track your car. It's on an on to see if you're home. They can go and rob your house."
Circuit Court Marshall Buddy Weller said Livingston County has done well to prepare itself in emergency situations, but improvements can be made. One of these improvements includes a comprehensive emergency management preparedness manual.
"At this point, we don't have an emergency management preparedness manual," Weller explained. "That's one thing Darrell (Wright) is going to start working on. One of the best things you can have is to have this stuff written down to where you can look at it and determine just what it is you're supposed to do when something comes up."
Two items being considered in the development of policies for the courthouse, in terms of emergency and security scenarios, include storm notification and building evacuation. According to a handout distributed at Monday's meeting, "if the courthouse is evacuated for any reason (fire, bomb threat, etc.), all employees will go to the council chamber of the Chillicothe City Hall."
The county commission also plans to implement a better system to account for employees of the courthouse during evacuation.
"We think it's very important that each elected official in their own office be accountable for your staff," Presiding Commissioner Eva Danner Horton explained. "We can have a checkoff list, and yet we wouldn't know if somebody's home sick that day or just not in the office. If we evacuate and get to city hall, you need to be aware that all the people in your office are there that should be there."
The second facet of the policy deals with inclement weather preparedness. According to the handout, county employees and citizens who are in the courthouse will be notified of an approaching storm by the activated storm siren, as well as an air horn in the courthouse. At that time, those in the buildings should seek shelter in the basement and first floor restrooms.
There is some concern about the capacity of the courthouse basement and restrooms. As an emergency shelter for the city, the courthouse may need to accommodate anyone in the downtown area seeking shelter, in addition to those already working in or visiting the building. At Monday's meeting, Wright said he's planning to conduct a study to see what the maximum capacity of the courthouse emergency space would be. Wright also stated that despite this study, emergency personnel will do everything in their power, especially during storms, to combat that issue by notifying of these emergencies as early as possible.
Page 2 of 2 - "We're on direct computers with the National Weather Service," Wright explained. "A day or two ahead of time, they start telling us about patterns and storms. If we know that early there's going to be significant weather, they're going to get you people out of here."