EMERGENCY: City/county emergency operations plan outdated

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By Mallory Bilger

Efforts to update city and county emergency and evacuation plans continue as officials representing Spencer County and Taylorsville discuss the community’s ability to respond to a disaster.

The issue was addressed in early January at a Taylorsville City Commission meeting, when resident and floodwall commissioner Gary Kehne expressed his concerns for the city’s lack of an appropriate emergency and evacuation plan, especially in the case of a breeched floodwall.

Perhaps one of the most sobering facts facing officials is that city residents have between 30 to 60 minutes to get out of the city if the Taylorsville Lake Dam was to break, according to Spencer County Schools Operations Director Brett Beaverson.

From that discussion, other issues have been identified, including that the county’s Emergency Operation Plan was close to five years outdated. The county is mandated by state order to develop, maintain and implement a comprehensive plan for disaster and emergency preparedness.

City and county representatives, met twice in the past week to discuss updating current plans and, in some cases, devise new ones that address issues such as major flooding in the county or a dam break, among other disasters. Many parts of Spencer County are protected by the water held back by Taylorsville Lake Dam and Taylorsville residents especially rely upon the floodwall, which holds back waters from the Salt River.

Spencer County Emergency Management Agency Director Darrell Stevens said he had not been ignoring the problem, but had not updated the plan because he was told that new emergency plan mandates from the state were coming. They have yet to arrive, he said.

“There’s going to be changes made at the state level. Nothing ever happened from the state. I felt like the blame was coming to me. It’s outdated. Let’s get it fixed and move forward. It wouldn’t have been a big deal to update this plan if we knew what the state was going to do,” he said.

Last Friday officials met with Kentucky Division of Emergency Management Area Coordinator John Bastin, who advised the leaders that the county must have a sound plan.

“This is going to take everybody’s effort,” Bastin said, who recommended that officials use Shelby County’s response plan as an example for Spencer County. “Shelby County has one of the best . . . plans in the state. Theirs would be a good model to follow.”

Currently the county and city are working to identify representatives appropriate to fit in the 15 categories identified by the state as emergency support functions.
Those functions include transportation, communications, public works, firefighting, emergency management, mass care and sheltering, resource support, public health, search and rescue, hazardous materials, agriculture, energy, law enforcement, long-term recovery and public information.
Taylorsville Mayor Don Pay has expressed numerous times his dissatisfaction with the city’s current emergency plan.

“I’m not happy with it and I never have been. I think we can do a whole lot better,” he said.

Sheriff Buddy Stump said one major issue that could be clarified quickly was that emergency contact lists should be updated with current phone numbers and distributed to all city and county agencies responding in a disaster situation.
He said the current lists are out of date and not easily accessible.

Entities curently participating in the discussions to update the county’s EOP include the sheriff’s department, Taylorsville Police, Spencer County Schools, Spencer County Judge Executive Bill Karrer, Emergency Management Agency Director Darrell Stevens, Taylorsville Mayor Don Pay and Taylorsville-Spencer County Fire Chief Nathan Nation.

The group plans to meet again early next week to continue discussions and get a more concrete idea of what parts of the county’s current EOP need to be updated.