They generally work behind the scenes. You don’t see them unless something happens, and it’s generally bad. Our public safety agencies -- law enforcement, firefighters, emergency management personnel, paramedics and public works departments -- don’t get the luxury of sitting out a storm. When the general public is told to stay off the roads, they don’t get a pass. In fact, all hands have to be on deck. So what if it’s an off day?
In our readership area, the agencies performed well during last week’s snow. There was a coordinated effort among law enforcement, the EMA, school districts, elected government and others to make sure we remained safe. While the plight of Atlanta has drawn the headlines, that type of thing didn’t happen in Middle Georgia because of prior planning and preparation.
And there was another factor. For the most part, when people were asked to stay off the roads, they did. This allowed first responders to get where they needed to go without delay. While the governor and mayor of Atlanta have drawn the ire of many, something has to be said about the thousands of people who headed to the highways in the metro area in conditions they were not prepared to face. Not so in Middle Georgia.
Yes, there were still emergencies. There were still fires. There were still people who had to get to the hospital, but first responders were able to perform their tasks because of citizen cooperation.
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That cooperation extended to the business community that allowed their employees to leave work before conditions deteriorated and to the local school systems that cancelled classes long before the first snowflake fell. And Wednesday, very few employers required their personnel to report.
That’s the way it is supposed to happen, and it may have to happen again. For the past 48 years, Middle Georgia has received more snowfall in February than in any other month. The great snow of 1973 occurred in February.
Severe Weather Awareness Week begins Monday, Feb. 3, and after we fall out of our Super Bowl stupor, it might be time to make sure we are prepared in the case of another weather-related situation. Last year the state was buffeted with tornadoes, and eight people died. Each day next week will focus on a different aspect of weather preparedness. Now is the time to make sure you have:
Working flashlights (fresh batteries).
Roadside assistance kit in your car (flashlight, jumper cables, blankets, first aid kit).
Batteries in your smoke detectors.
Remember weather emergencies can and have happened here.