Portage County Commissioners and the Portage County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management are encouraging residents to prepare now for the snowy winter that meteorologists are predicting for Northeast Ohio.
“Commissioners and EMA understand no one wants to hear that bad weather is coming. But there are steps that you, your family and your business can take to meet the challenge head on,” said Portage County Commissioner Maureen T. Frederick. “Knowing where to go for information, having a plan and building an emergency kit are important first steps. We urge you to take time to learn about preparing."
Frederick, along with commissioners Kathleen Chandler and Vicki A. Kline and Ryan Shackelford, director of Portage County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, have planned a month-long education campaign in December to provide residents with winter weather preparedness information through the agency website, social media and other media.
PC OHS/EM suggests several ways for residents to stay updated on weather information. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration weather radio, local radio and television stations will share the latest reports. NOAA information is also available at www.nws.noaa.gov/nwr.
PC OHS/EM developed a comprehensive free emergency management app that residents can download to their iPhones and Android devices at “Portage County Emergency Management App.” EMA also has its own social media presence on Facebook and Twitter at Portage Prepares providing current emergency information. A web page will also have emergency information at www.co.portage.oh.us/portageprep.
Portage County Engineer Mickey Marozzi weighed in about getting the right mindset for driving in winter weather.
“Every year for the first and sometimes second snowfall, we have accidents due to the change in the weather. Roads are snow-covered and slippery. Very simply put, we ask drivers to slow down,” Marozzi said.
Marozzi also warned that county snow plow drivers will be out clearing roads.
“Give them room to do their job. They will be going slower than the average traffic. Please stay back a reasonable distance. We will all be safer because of it,” he said.
Ohio’s Move Over Law requires motorists to cautiously shift over one lane or slow down if it is not possible to change lanes when driving by any vehicle with flashing lights on the side of a road. To read more about the law, go to www.dot.state.oh.us/moveover.
Portage County Sheriff David Doak advises that residents stay aware of changing weather and road conditions by monitoring local media. When a winter storm blows in, consider driving only when necessary, he said.
“As always, be extremely cautious and safe on the roads this winter. The time to prepare is now,” Doak said, “Please do not tail another vehicle in adverse conditions and no texting and driving. Set your phone to automatic text replies when you are in a vehicle”
Shackelford said his office recognizes that some residents have limited or no access to the internet but need preparedness information. He encouraged residents to call his office for pamphlets at 330-297-3607 or stop by the PC OHS/EM office, 8240 Infirmary Road, Ravenna, at the east entrance to the Portage County Corrections Center.
The next step in preparing is to sit down with your household or co-workers to make a plan, Shackelford said.
Creating and discussing a plan with family members should make each person aware of local warning systems, how to get to safe locations, how to communicate with each other and where to meet after an emergency. For more information, visit the Portage Prepares web page at www.co.portage.oh.us/portageprep/ and click on “Make a Plan.” Businesses should also have a plan that helps employees stay safe and start the recovery process. Information is available at www.ready.gov/workplace-plans.
Shackelford urged residents to start collecting items for a household emergency kit and think about a kit for their workplace.
Residents also need to think about how to power their communication devices by having extra batteries on hand or hand-crank devices if the power goes out. For more information about building a kit, visit the Portage Prepares web page and click on “Build a Kit.”
In our commuter society, it is also important to fit out your vehicle in case you are stranded during a snow storm, Shackelford said.
“There’s a great list that’s put out by the Ohio Severe Weather Awareness Committee. Tops on the list is some way to keep yourself warm with extra clothes or blankets and a car cell phone charger,” he said.
For that list, visit the Portage Prepares web page and click on “Winter Safety Tips for the Vehicle.”
“We are especially concerned about residents’ safety when using other types of heating appliances or equipment. Inexperience by an operator or faulty equipment can result in injury or death,” Shackelford said.
He advised that residents follow manufacturers’ directives when using heating equipment such as generators. For more information go to the Portage Prepares website and click on “Fire Safety in the Home.”
Shackelford is also concerned that residents think about the possibility of winter storm flooding.
“Our winter weather can be unpredictable. While it doesn’t happen often, we can have snow and freezing. Then comes rain and it rolls off the frozen snow to produce flooding conditions. The cold temperature makes the problem devastating for residents,” Shackelford said.
He advised persons in low-lying areas and those areas that experience occasional flooding to be prepared. Information is available at www.ready.gov/floods.
The Portage Prepares web page has additional resources that visitors can link to for information including personal safety during winter storms, especially for older adults; issues of extreme cold; fire safety; and winter weather terminology such a warnings and watches. Residents can also access a comprehensive booklet from Ready.gov at: http://ow.ly/Xr7Z306ghLn.
“Residents are welcome to call our office at 330-297-3607 if we can assist them in preparing for winter weather. We’re here to help,” Shackelford said.
The mildness of last winter will have some drivers forgetting how to drive in the snow, and new drivers overconfident.
Stay safe out there, take your time, and you'll get there.