PLATTSMOUTH – Should there be stiffer rules when people don’t evacuate their properties when requested by authorities in dangerous situations?
Sandy Weyers, the Cass County Emergency Management Agency director, expressed concern at Tuesday’s Board of Commissioners meeting on the risks authorities take in rescuing people stuck on their properties despite advanced warnings.
She mentioned numerous flood rescues including seven residents who had to be taken out by boat from being stuck in their homes in Horseshoe Lake.
“We had a significant amount of rescues where people were asked to evacuate, but didn’t evacuate and got stuck in there,” Weyers told the board.
Despite putting themselves in danger, such refusals put rescuers in harm’s way, while taking manpower away from more pressing situations, she said.
“It puts everybody at risk,” Weyers said. “It’s not necessary.”
Weyers suggested mandatory evacuation orders by the county’s district fire chiefs with financial penalties in the hundreds of dollars.
“There should be some backbone,” she said of current policy. “There has to be some teeth to it or people will ignore it.”
Commissioner Dale Sharp suggested such orders come from state officials and be the same for all counties.
Weyers indicated that’s a possibility and plans to bring up the issue when meeting with other emergency management officials in the near future.
“I’m trying to make it safer for everybody,” Weyers told the board. “It’s a discussion that needs to be had.”
On a related topic, Weyers offered praise for a new emergency communication system that was used during the flood.
This system allows emergency personnel all over the county to talk to each other clearly with no interference by geography or some other issue.
Up to 500 radios previously used in Douglas County and reprogrammed are now in the hands of Cass County personnel and aided with 10 tower locations in the county for quality reception.
“It was great,” Weyers said about the radios.
Weyers recalled that in the 2011 flood, cell phones were used and there were areas with no reception.
“It’s amazing,” she said. “I haven’t found a spot that I can’t talk to yet.”
Commissioner Jim Peterson, heavily involved in making this a reality, added, “We had the first test of multiple areas to be in communication at the same time. It’s going as exactly as planned.”