By Ken DeLaat
One of the many advantages of age beyond discovering the plethora of ‘senior specials’ available simply by asking ( no, not even a shred of pride) is having a sense of history born out of pure experience. Nothing quite measures up to it since newsreels or other accounts only allow a vicarious vision of events.
During the 50’s and early 60’s if you were young and even mildly impressionable the spectre of the Atom Bomb loomed over your very existence. There were always reports of the Soviets testing bigger and more powerful bombs. China wasn’t in yet but thought to be not far away and Britain and France were either armed or nearly so. The US tested as well and fortified against what sometimes seemed like an imminent threat.
It was the height of the Cold War and we had drills, though I’m unsure who called them or organized them. During these events we were told to kneel under our desks or simply ‘duck and cover.
Yeah, really. We practiced it.
Even at that tender age I recall us kids looking at each other and collectively thinking “This might help if we were getting bombed by paper wads or even tennis balls but that desk wasn’t going to do squat against an Atom Bomb.”
But drill we did until someone figured out that should a nuclear attack occur there would be no safe place including the well meaning homemade fallout shelters that could be found popping up (or rather, down.) here and there.
My point (and I do have one) has to do with the current nuclear climate and the recent snafu in Hawaii when the call went out to prepare for incoming missiles. Thankfully it was an erroneous warning occuring when that old bugaboo called communication went awry but also calling out some questions about who in effect runs the show when it comes to warning the citizenry these days. I know there’s still that test signal that goes over the radio and tv on occasion. A signal, by the way, that is forbidden by law to replicate in a non drill or non emergency though I knew a young woman in my college years whose laugh came dangerously close to that particular sound. When she let go of one of her signature outbursts in public or among strangers the results were wildly entertaining.
But I digress.
A recent segment on NPR stated that the responsibility to warn often falls on local jurisdiction but this depends on the state which to me seems a bit slipshod since it involves a matter of somewhat substantial importance like impending apocalyptic outcomes and whatnot.
Being the inquisitive type (some might say nosy) contact was made with Abby Watkins the Emergency Services Director for Newaygo County.
You may have encountered Ms. Watkins at any number of exercises in the county preparing communities for events we all hope will never occur. She is a master at her trade and in years of covering county business my respect for her work has continued to grow.
Ms, W. is all about preparation and communication and advocates for citizens to be aware of how to access information from one of the multiple methods the county provides.
Her response provided the answers we sought and, without naming incoming warheads as an example, it seems pretty clear they would come in at Level III, a response we hope to never see from any source.
The important piece seems to be knowing there exists a multitude of organized systematic approaches aimed at getting people the information they need.
There is no way to predict what catastrophies might befall us.
But those aforementioned events Emergency Services organizes throughout the county to simulate disasters or crises?
They have allowed for the formation of a community of people ready to respond. A multi-agency, collaborative group who know how to work together and know how to react quickly and efficiently.
Seems we’ve come a long way since ‘duck and cover’.
From Abby Watkins:
Newaygo County Emergency Services is the designated warning communications point for Newaygo County. We partner with Newaygo County Central Dispatch and utilize a leveled warning system which allows officials to appropriately select and utilize available warning mechanisms to alert and notify targeted audiences of emergency conditions. The goal is to quickly make the information common knowledge and current.
Level I notifications are targeted notifications including Nixle alerts, calling trees, pagers, sirens, and personal notifications. These types of notifications are utilized to alert and notify a local, defined location or identified population of emergency events and/or hazardous situations. This level of notification is activated through local system users.
Level II notifications are comprehensive notifications are comprehensive notifications including NOAA weather radios, Nixle Rebroadcasts, social media, TV, Radio, and Print Media. These types of alerts are utilized for rapid dissemination of alerts and public information to a variety of public warning systems to make the alert and information common knowledge. They will reach a large audience regardless of location. In most cases, the system is activated through the Grand Rapids National Weather Service Office. Warning messages can range from weather related events to civil emergency message, law enforcement warnings, hazardous materials warnings, and local area emergencies.
Level III notifications are IPAWS alerts. These notifications are the highest level of notification possible and are designed for issuance of critical public alerts and warnings of severe urgency dissemination through all available warnings systems and the widest range of audience. IPAWS alerts will trigger the Emergency Alert System, Wireless Emergency Alerts, NOAA Weather Radio Alerts, NIXLE, media, and social media. Newaygo County Emergency Services can trigger IPAWS alerts locally or they can be triggered by the State Emergency Operations Center. We have training along with policies and procedures to set this level of notification off locally.
When an emergency occurs, it is important for the general public to know how to get accurate, timely, and up to date information about what to do to keep them safe. The public should know Newaygo County uses multiple methods to disseminate emergency information in order to reach the largest number of people possible. Our comprehensive warning system is designed for rapid dissemination of alerts and public information through a variety of public mechanisms. The goal is to quickly make the alert and information common knowledge. It is up to the individual to choose which notification method(s) work best for them to receive the emergency information.
Thank you Ms. W. Well put as always.
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