Disaster ‘what ifs’ in LCF sights

Emergency plans drafted for tornadoes, derailments

By Kelsey Leyva - kleyva@civitasmedia.com

An updated emergency plan will be issued to all Lorain County Fair directors and first responders two weeks before the fair.

A three-hour emergency planning session was held in June with board members, Wellington fire chief Mike Wetherbee, assistant chief Bill Brown, police chief Tim Barfield, Lt. Jeff Shelton, Dave Knapp of the South Lorain County Ambulance District, several sheriff’s deputies, representatives from the state for emergency planning and Tom Kelley, director of the Lorain County Emergency Management Agency and Homeland Security.

It focused on how agencies would respond to a hypothetical train derailment, fair board president Kim Meyers reported at the organization’s July meeting, held last Tuesday.

“This is the largest event in Lorain County for a week out of the whole year and the concern would be with as many people as we have here in a fairly tight environment, if you had something like that happen, are you prepared to handle it for the safety of the people that come here?” Meyers said.

He said no major incidents have happened in the past yet he’d rather be proactive than reactive.

“It was an issue I felt strongly about and I thought it would be good to have discussions,” he said. “We had discussions probably in January or February and at that time we thought, ‘Lets do one of these training sessions because it would be a good exercise.’”

Meyers said next year’s session will most likely focus on severe weather.

The revised plans will include protocols for disasters ranging from bomb threats to tornado touchdowns. They will divide the fairgrounds into six zones and include everything from the camping area to parking lots and even roads leading into the grounds.

Meyers said the effort is more of an update than a reinvention of emergency-handling strategies. A lot of what’s being brought up to date is contact information for first responders and emergency personnel.

“I think it’s been good because we have new faces come and go in our emergency services and it’s nice because we sit down with all the people in leadership positions and we know each other now face-to-face,” he said.

Sometimes such updates are due to problems at other fairs, such as the 2001 explosion of a steam engine at the Medina County Fair, Meyers said.

The plans also have layers upon layers of responders so if something as big and tragic as the Boston Marathon bombing were to occur there would be no shortage of ambulances or fire engines.

Compiling the information has been a group effort. Kelley will produce the final plan.

Meyers said a small group of leaders from each contributing organization will meet to review the plan in about two weeks before Kelley finalizes and prints the plan for distribution.

“Everyone that I’ve mentioned — police, fire, EMS, us — is here to put on a safe event and make sure that we’re as prepared as best as we can,” he said.

Kelsey Leyva can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @TWE_KelseyLeyva on Twitter.

Emergency plans drafted for tornadoes, derailments

By Kelsey Leyva