Commissioners receive storm update

By D. Anthony Botkin -

During its regularly scheduled Thursday morning session, the Delaware County Board of Commissioners received an update on Monday’s storm event from Delaware County Office of Homeland Security (EMA) Director Sean Miller and Delaware County Emergency Communications 911 (DelCom) Director Patrick Brandt.

“On Monday, May 27, two tornado warnings were issued by the National Weather Service (NWS),” Miller said. “One at 11:08 p.m. and the next at 11:34 p.m.”

Miller said during the evening’s events, the two agencies worked closely together with the NWS and Amateur Radio in keeping apprised of the storm and the possible damage that might have occurred.

“Thankfully, the impacts to Delaware County were minimal, despite those two tornado warnings. There were no indications of tornadic activity in Delaware County. There were no damages that would support that kind of event,” Miller told the commissioners. “However, there was one injury reported that appeared to be a potential lightning strike.”

Miller added damages were considerable “much more impactful” statewide. He shared notes from the state’s situation report that was issued to Gov. Mike DeWine Thursday morning.

“The State Emergency Operations Center down in Columbus (COC) is at a partial activation level in response to the impacts from that weather,” he said. “Two county operation centers remain open, those are Montgomery and Greene counties, the COC has processed 21 mission requests, and three requests for information.”

Miller said the requests were to deploy bottled water, signage, fire apparatus, generator, search and rescue personnel, transportation, communication, and security for the impacted counties. He said the Red Cross is maintaining five shelters in the counties, and there was one confirmed death of an 80-year-old man.

The day after the storms, DeWine proclaimed a state of emergency for the three affected counties: Greene, Mercer and Montgomery.

According to press releases received this week from DeWine’s office, the emergency proclamation will allow:

• State agencies to provide resources and support beyond their normal authority, under the direction of the Ohio Emergency Management Agency (EMA).

• It allows the Department of Administrative Services (DAS) to suspend state purchasing requirements to support recovery efforts and obtain needed resources such as water and generators more quickly and efficiently.

Miller said in being prepared there are many inexpensive things that can be done that include methods for warnings and notifications.

“First and foremost, sirens are not meant to be heard inside a structure or vehicle,” Miller said. “They are designed to be (heard) outside and when those warning sirens go off, they are an indication that folks should seek shelter immediately as well as more information.”

Miller said there are currently 16 outdoor warning sirens in the county, and although DelCom activates all the sirens, they are maintained by the individual jurisdictions.

He added the EMA only owns four of the sirens in the county, “two at each of the state parks.”

“There is no all-clear issued and the sirens are activated throughout the duration of the warning,” he said. “If you hear the sirens go off again, that is not an indication of an all-clear. That means the warning is still issued.”

Miller urged people to have a means of multiple notifications that would wake them at night. He said one notification system people should have is Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA), a nationwide alert system which will post Amber Alerts and NWS Alerts.

Miller said if a phone is compatible with WEA, it will be listed in the menu under government settings. He said to also make sure that the phone’s setting doesn’t hinder receiving alerts.

He added WEA is based on the location of the cell phone at the time of the alert, and a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) radio is excellent for receiving tailored notifications for areas of interest.

Brandt said on Monday night his staff received the event alert from the NWS on the state computer for law enforcement data and wireless alerts.

“Once any of those comes into the center, our staff has the ability to activate the sirens countywide,” he said. “We don’t have to wait for approval from the (EMA) office.”

Brandt said DelCom also sends out a text message to all fire and emergency medical services (EMS) people on duty at the time.

“This gives the fire departments the ability of another means to know that (the storm) is coming,” he said.

Brandt said there have been a lot of questions about the county’s alert system. He said the system isn’t just for weather-related notifications. It’s also for law enforcement situations.

However, unlike the WEA that Miller spoke of — DelCom’s alerts are based on the area it serves.

“The system services the people that we cover in our 911 center,” he said. “If you live in the cities of Westerville, Dublin or Columbus, the system does not serve you. You must sign up through Franklin County’s, or if you live Dublin, go to the Dublin Police webpage to sign up there.”

Brandt said some residents received alerts on their cell phones, while neighbors across the street did not. He said it’s all based on the cell phone owner’s address.

He added the first alert to go out Monday night was just under 5,000 notices, and the second was over 27,000 notices sent. Brandt said sending text message alerts is preferred, because it will not bog down the phone system as quickly as other methods.

By D. Anthony Botkin

Contact D. Anthony Botkin at 740-413-0902. Follow him on Twitter @dabotkin.

Contact D. Anthony Botkin at 740-413-0902. Follow him on Twitter @dabotkin.