In times of calm, its easy to dismiss emergency officials often-obsessive drive to come up with plans to cope with disasters. When there are no immediate challenges, all the planning can seem like bureaucratic busywork.
Well, for Columbia Countys Emergency Services Director Pam Tucker, last weeks snow and ice storm brought plenty of challenges. And after two years of captaining the county through mostly calm seas, Tuckers attention to detailed preparations paid off.
The countys emergency services didnt have to scramble when the temperature plummeted and the first flakes began to fall. Thats because, two months earlier when it was 80 degrees outside, those services made plans for handling foul-weather emergencies.
The result? The biggest problem during the storm and its aftermath was the lines at grocery stores, where panicky buyers snapped up everything from milk to potato chips. Emergency officials were already prepared, and didnt have to hunt around for supplies or volunteers.
Not to pick a fight, but contrast that preparedness with our neighbors. As the storm hit, Richmond County road crews called on Columbia County to ask if they could borrow salt. Theyd failed to stockpile any of the ice-thawing material, and were as surprised by the well-forecast storm as those frantic grocery-store shoppers.
Columbia County had plenty of salt, though, because Construction and Maintenance Director Kevin Lear and his Roads and Bridges crews made sure they had what they needed when the seas were calm, so to speak. That meant most of our roads remained passable, thanks not just to those supplies but because of the dedication of county road crews working around the clock.
The outstanding response to the winter weather we experienced last week was due to all of our departments being prepared ahead of time, says Tucker. They displayed extraordinary support and cooperation with each other around the clock.
I think they did a tremendous job, agrees Columbia County Administrator Steve Szablewski, who drove - carefully - around the county during the worst of the storm to assess the road crews work. It was a very smooth-running operation.
Additionally, hospital and nursing home workers from Columbia County were able to get rides to work during the worst of the storm thanks to a standing corps of volunteers coordinated through Tuckers office.
Workers who are Richmond residents were left out in the cold, much to the hospitals chagrin. Augustas volunteers werent rounded up until 24 hours after the storm hit - long after they were needed. Unlike Columbia and Aiken counties, Richmond had failed to set up a shuttle system in advance of the storm and was left to play catch-up.
Columbia Countys workers deserve high praise for their handling of our ship on calm seas. Last weeks storm proves theyre well-prepared when the waves get rough, too.
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