The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

April 21, 2013

County officials are prepared for disasters

By Cass Rains, Staff Writer
Enid News & Eagle

ENID, Okla. — Enid and Garfield County are about as ready as they can be for a natural disaster — it just depends on its severity.

“I think we’re just about as ready as can be — it’s just a matter of how bad it can be,” said Mike Honigsberg, certified director of Enid and Garfield County Emergency Management. “That’s the kind of mindset I have. We’re as ready as can be for whatever nature can throw at us — it’s just a matter of how bad it throws it at us.”

Other areas of the country may have trouble coping with natural disasters because they do not have the same type of systems in place, Honigsberg said.

“When we have a storm, or we’re predicted to have storms, we’re paying very close attention to that,” he said. “We have a county full of what will soon be certified storm spotters.”

Honigsberg was certified by the National Weather Service. That means he can teach others to be storm spotters, including local emergency responders. He’s been teaching storm spotting classes for the past several years.

He said the county has anywhere from 150 to 180 storm spotters that can be activated with either a page, email or phone call.

“We take our level of preparedness very, very seriously,” Honigsberg said.

He said upgrades are being made to older outdoor storm sirens, and those are being replaced with state-of-the-art sirens that allow voices to be broadcast via the sirens.

The Enid and Garfield County Emergency Management office also uses its paging system, Nixle warning system, ViaRadios and Facebook to communicate with those in the county before severe weather begins.

“It’s all a part of our integrated warning system, and we’re always looking for ways to improve it,” Honigsberg said. “We’re always looking for ways to improve it, and it always gets better as we go.”

Honigsberg said at events, classes or during speaking engagements, he always tries to have those he speaks with take away the fact they need to pay attention to severe weather.

“You can’t make people do things. You can only do what I’m doing — hounding people about preparedness,” he said. “We take this very, very seriously, because it’s not a game.”

Continually educating the public, the warning systems in place and the trained spotters all help keep those in the county safe during disasters.

“I think that’s why we’re ahead of the mark here,” Honigsberg said. “We can contact our spotter network easily.”

Waukomis Fire Chief Clarence Maly said his department is as ready as can be for a disaster.

“The network is ready to go. All we need is for something to happen,” he said. “We’ve practiced it, we’re trained and we’re all ready. All we need is a disaster.”

He said most small towns have been able to upgrade their storm warning systems with money from NODA, and departments have been using tax money to pay for necessary training for emergencies.

Honigsberg said he tells his storm spotters the same thing: they don’t work for him but they all work together. He said any success is due to them working together.

“It’s the dedication of our volunteers. It’s the majority out in the field that gives us the information we need so we can formalize it in or process,” he said. “People can die in this kind of thing, and that’s why we take it so seriously.”�