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System notifies residents of danger

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By Elizabeth Troutman

When a wave of violent thunderstorms swept through Louisville Jan. 29 and headed northeast toward Oldham County, many residents were fast asleep. If rattling windows didn’t startle residents enough to turn on a radio or TV, they remained oblivious to hazardous storms that came through the county around midnight. Kevin Nuss, director of Oldham County Emergency Management, thinks an automated phone call could effectively warn residents of danger in future emergencies. An emergency management system proposed by Nuss would automatically call Oldham County households on Oldham County Dispatch’s database in an emergency, including severe weather, a chemical spill or a train derailment. Residents will also be able to register cell phone numbers and additional lines on a Web site. Nuss regrets he didn’t have access to an automated emergency management system the night of Jan. 29, when damaging winds tore off a portion of the roof of the Little Colonel Playhouse in Pewee Valley. He aims to have an emergency management service up and running before peak storm season hits in April. If the system is approved, Nuss will be responsible for controlling it through a laptop computer. He will be notified by Oldham County Dispatch when an emergency occurs. Nuss gained approval from Oldham County Fiscal Court Feb. 19 to negotiate a contract with one of three prospective vendors. Nuss is forming a committee of representatives from six cities to decide on protocol for the system and select a vendor. He said the committee will define specific situations when the system should be used. Nuss estimates the system will cost cities $1 per household. Oldham County Fiscal Court will pay for households in unincorporated areas. The cost of the system is estimated to be a total of $15,000 to $20,000 per year. The program will call residents in an emergency and offer safety recommendations to every number in the phone book. Mayor Bob Rogers of Pewee Valley thinks the system will help residents if the call is made before severe weather hits. He thinks the system could also notify residents of downed power lines and falling trees, which put residents in danger Jan. 29. The system will release emergency calls specific to the area that is affected. “It would have probably benefited us,” Rogers said. He thinks spreading word of an emergency is a tactic of preparing the public for potential harm. Nuss noted the system may be used to update residents on snow advisories that occur during the daytime, however, the committee will identify weather emergencies when the system should be activated. La Grange Mayor Elsie Carter said information about hazards in the city circulate by word of mouth and phone calls. She thinks the system will put everyone on the same page in the case of an emergency. Recently four large tree branches fell and blocked railroad tracks near Main Street. Carter learned about the hazard by phone, but wishes a system was in place to inform the public of the danger. Nuss said if a situation meets the committee’s definition of an emergency, a call will be sent out. “We do it the good ol’ boys way,” Carter said of spreading the word about emergencies. “But that doesn’t work all the time.” Lori Abrams was driving home from Louisville Jan. 29 when the first round of storms swept through the region. She said she struggled to get home, and called her relatives to see if the National Weather Service had issued a tornado warning for Oldham County. A warning was never issued. “It turns out that there was a tornado,” she said. Abrams, who has lived in La Grange for 28 years, supports the emergency notification system, even if it might mean a call in the wee hours of the morning. Her mother lives in a trailer home near Henry County, and Abrams said she worries her mother might not know when to move to safety if a tornado barrels through the county. She believes keeping residents informed on emergencies will help them react rather than wonder how to protectthemselves.

E-mail us about this story at: elizabeth@oldhamera.com