New signs drawing attention
BUCKEYE LAKE – Evacuation route signs that appeared last Thursday in Buckeye Lake Village are generating plenty of attention, and the directors of the Licking and Fairfield county EMA offices couldn’t be happier.
“We’re anxious to get the word out,” said Fairfield County EMA Director Jon Kochis. He emphasized that the new bold blue signs scattered throughout Buckeye Lake Village don’t signify a new or larger threat than before in Buckeye Lake nor do they mean an impending disaster is expected. “It’s a fine tuning of a warning system for the whole region,” Kochis said, adding that the signs are just one part of a sophisticated warning system, not just of dam failure, but any other disaster requiring evacuation as well.
According to a recent Fairfield County EMA news release, the Fairfield and Licking county emergency management agencies have put in place a coordinated warning system using several warning tools.
New emergency warning sirens were installed in the Buckeye Lake area. The sirens, while capable for severe weather warnings, also now alert residents of a Buckeye Lake Dam failure. Mobile and landline phone users can receive calls and texts from emergency notification systems in Fairfield and Licking counties. Social media will also be used to update residents of any potential emergency continually.
Residents and visitors are encouraged to visit www.buckeyelakedamsafety.com to learn the details of the system, evacuation routes, and the impact zone that could be affected. Fairfield and Licking county residents can sign up for mobile or telephone alerts by visiting the counties’ respective web pages, and information can be followed on Twitter and Facebook.
Kochis said EMA officials were reviewing a flooding incident in July of last summer that had local officials going door to door, informing residents that flooding could lead to an evacuation. He said going door to door was extremely inefficient and it didn’t help area consumers and tourists. “That’s what really started this,” he said. “Was (door to door) really the way to go?”
Kochis said the evacuation route signs are mainly for Buckeye Lake visitors who don’t know the area. “ODOT was great in helping us out,” he said, adding that the evacuation route is modeled on a hurricane evacuation route.
Licking County EMA Director Kevin Carver said basically the evacuation route leads everyone to Ohio 79, directing some traffic north and other traffic south. To the north, some of the traffic would be diverted onto Mill Dam Road. “They have that option,” he said.
Kochis said Buckeye Lake residents received a mail notification stating, “Emergency officials have put a system in place to warn residents in the unlikely case of a failure of Buckeye Lake Dam. This includes outdoor warning sirens and emergency notification by phone, news media and social media in the Buckeye Lake Dam area. Operators monitor the warning system 24 hours a day and seven days a week. Safety monitoring of Buckeye Lake Dam includes detailed observation and analysis of rainfall amounts, lake levels and dam conditions by Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) personnel. The local fire and police departments, school officials and city government, in conjunction with Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) and Ohio Emergency Management Agency (EMA), have established contingency plans for such a disaster. These plans specifically address public notification, evacuation and postincident recovery efforts.
Emergency personnel will use the following warning systems to notify the community:
• Outdoor Warning Sirens
• Emergency Notification Systems
• Social Media
Outdoor Warning Siren Testing:
Siren testing for the outdoor warning system is conducted on the first Thursday of every month at noon. The tests involve activating the sirens and playing pre-recorded audio messages.
The outdoor warning sirens have pre-recorded messages that will play during a local emergency and testing. These are the types of messages you may hear: Test message: ‘This is a test of the Buckeye Lake Dam Warning System. This is only a test.’ Dam Failure Message: ‘The Buckeye Lake Dam has failed or failure is likely, evacuate the area immediately.’
In the unlikely case of a dam failure, high water in the city limits could exceed a depth of eight feet within a short time. Please take caution and action to keep safe.”
Carver said in the event there is a dam break, there would be time for people to evacuate, and particularly the further people are away from the dam. He said the warning system would work for any situation that would require an evacuation of the Buckeye Lake Area, not just a dam break.
The first test of the siren is at noon on Thursday, Aug. 7.
“We’re here to help,” Carver said. “It’s prevention and preparedness.”