County and city officials have measures in place and a plan to act on in the event of a major tornado outbreak, but any official would say more could be done to prepare, said Faulkner County Judge Alan Dodson.
“To counter that, we’re as prepared as any county in Arkansas,” he said.
Code Red Weather Warning, an opt-in emergency warning system, is available to all Faulkner County. The system offers notifications to registered residents by telephone for areas out of reach of outdoor tornado sirens or other warning systems. Visit www.faulknercounty.org to sign up for the available service.
The City of Conway has an outdoor siren system in 22 locations around the city. In the event of a tornado, sirens may be activated individually or simultaneously to provide a general alert for the city.
Beyond alert systems, the county as a whole has a strategic response for the worst case scenario.
“The first role the county plays is with the road department. They have to get the roads clear for first responders. The Office of Emergency Management’s role is two-fold, with preparedness and awareness for the community and first responders,” he said.
The Office of Emergency Management facilitates response along with an Incident Command System, part of the National Response Framework and the National Incident Management System enacted by FEMA.
Most recently, Faulkner County saw this system at work following the Mayflower oil leak.
“The ICS has a goal of making sure communication among many organizations works properly. There would be a command post, an incident commander and different sections under the commander,” said Dodson.
Dodson remembered the response to the Vilonia tornado in April of 2011.
“You don’t know where (a tornado) is going to occur or what it will impact. This is why you set up mutual aid agreements,” he said.
Faulkner County has mutual aid agreements with surrounding counties’ emergency response departments.
If Faulkner County is hit with a wide scale disaster, surrounding departments are charged to aid. Likewise, Faulkner County and city departments will respond to events outside their lines.
In the Vilonia tornado, Dodson said, a path of debris kept local responders on one side of the impacted area.
“The County Judge from Lonoke, Doug Erwin, immediately called and asked if we needed help. We couldn’t get to the other side of the debris path so Judge Erwin sent crews from that side,” said Dodson. “We stand ready to assist other counties in this way.”
In the same spirit, Conway and other cities in Faulkner County would depend on other departments for mutual aid.
Conway Fire Chief Bart Castleberry said in an interview following the fatal Moore, Okla. tornado that local departments’ resources would be immediately overwhelmed should three city blocks in Conway be impacted in the way a Moore neighborhood was.
Castleberry stressed the need for working together in such an event.
“We start ramping up any time weather looks like it will turn severe. We get our equipment ready and put ourselves on standby so we are ready to roll on a moment’s notice,” Dodson said.
(Staff writer Courtney Spradlin can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 505-1236. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)