RIPLEY – Those who have lived in the Village of Ripley for an extended period of time know the power the river can bring to the Village. It can erupt through and wash away everything with a powerful rain and slow moving river. But how prepared is the Village if such a tragedy were strike.
Brown County EMA Director Beth Nevel met with the Village leaders on Feb. 23 to go over an exercise to see just how prepared everyone was in the event of a major flood. The table top exercise gave the Village leaders a scenario and how they would handle the events that unfolded. Nevel said she did not have the answers to the exercise, but rather those answered were bestowed within the leadership of the Village.
“It’s a good idea to sit down and just discuss these sort of events on sort of a regular basis every once in awhile,” Nevel told the Council. “The last significant flood we had was in 1997.”
In the table top exercise the Village was told that a major storm was coming because of the ideal weather conditions that mocked similarly to those in the 1997 flood. They were told that potential storms were scheduled to bring five to 10 inches of rain in a 48-72 hour period. The group was provided historical data on the Ohio River crest in Ripley with the most notable being the 1937 flood which saw waters reach as much as 75.6 feet before rescinding.
Council had to work through all of the necessary action required to take on declaring an emergency, what agencies to contact, where to look for resource, and what decisions should be made if the Village decided to evacuate the entire Village. The Village was also pressed with the issue of how to handle those who do not evacuate when the order is given. The exercise allowed for all of the things to be discussed by the Village and helped get the ball rolling as far as what needed to be done.
Nevel said that was exactly what these kind of activities were for. That it wasn’t a regular occurrence but when they do happen, they seem to happen significantly. The Village was confident that most of the residents knew what it would take for flood waters to reach their homes, but were concerned about newcomers to the Village or elderly residents who did not have places to go.
“These are extremely important to get them thinking,” Nevel said. “That is the whole mission tonight, for them to put their thinking caps on and think this through.”
Nevel said keeping the residents informed all the time about what to do in these situation are what makes disasters go as smooth as can be expected. Even in the chaos having an informed group of people keeps some order to what is going on around them.
“I think the communications with the citizens needs to be on-going long before the disaster ever happens.so they know the expectations,” Nevel said. “I think Citizens are the solution to the level of response when the disaster happens. If the citizens had taken self-responsibility and made good decisions and gotten out of harms way it takes the pressure off of responders and makes for a much safer disaster, not that any disaster is safe.”
Ripley Mayor Tom Leonard said the residents of the Village are prepared for disasters because they have experienced them in the past. He thinks that the citizens of Ripley know what it takes for water to reach their house and make good decisions on when to get out. But, the mayor said he is working on a strategic plan to implement in the Village in case of an emergency situation.
“This meeting is falling in place really nicely,” Leonard said. “I am meeting with someone who is putting together a disaster plan for us. I’ve been wanting to do this for several years. You get all these storms and the river now and then, but the storms, you lose power for eight to 12 hours at a time. You need air. We’re coming up with some good ideas.”
Leonard said he hoped to have a plan to bring to Council before the end of April. The Village is also working on improvements to their website to have documents, such as a the disaster plan, available to citizens to read when there is not a disaster happening.
Leonard said these exercises were very beneficial and helped to get people thinking about what to do during a storm or disaster.