Emergency response team prepares final steps on eclipse day


The Emergency Response team recently had their final meeting regarding safety protocols during the total eclipse that will capture Jackson County and other surrounding areas on Monday.

Jackson County is in the path of totality along with other parts of Indiana, the United States, Mexico and Canada. That will mean complete darkness for up to four minutes as the moon shadows the sun, depending upon you location.

Duane Davis, director of the Jackson County Emergency Management Agency, said the current weather prediction for that day is 70 degrees and partly sunny, but it is subject to change.

The Jackson County area is expected to have more than 88,000 visitors to view the eclipse and traffic afterwards is expected to be taxed beyond capacity.

“Traffic is going to be a nightmare,” said Seymour Police Chief Greg O’Brien, who is an incident commander along with Jackson County Sheriff Rick Meyer.

Davis said emergency dispatch centers at the sheriff’s department in Brownstown and Seymour Police Department will carry on that day as normal, but if and when they become overwhelmed, it will be the job of the Emergency Coordination Center in Seymour to relay information or reroute traffic for emergency services.

O’Brien said during the meeting that the turn lane on Tipton Street will be used as an emergency lane for police and fire.

He also said Airport Road on the city’s west side would be for emergency and local use only and out-of-town visitors will be pushed to the east on Burkart Boulevard bypass around the south side of the city.

The Indiana Department of Transportation is going to have engineers live looking at the city intersections to be able to turn on the light signals longer if needed.

O’Brien said there are a little more than 300 scheduled flights into Freeman Municipal Airport this weekend, which is an uncontrolled airspace.

He said the pilots have their own frequency in which they talk to each other to coordinate landings.

Factories in the area have also taken notice of the special event as Valeo, Cummins Inc and Nippon Steel among many are shutting down operations that day. Aisin still plans to carry on operations that day.

With an influx of visitors, communications have become another issue emergency response has tried to tackle.

Nick Klinger, deputy director for the Jackson County Emergency Management Agency, said the statewide radio system will be used for emergency dispatch traffic only and will be monitored heavily if used too much.

“It’s just going to be a tough day because on top of it, cellphones aren’t going to work,” he said.

Metronet also is in the process of establishing a temporary hotspot tower to minimize the impact on cellphone providers. The Wi-Fi network is supposedly not going to be password protected.

Lastly, O’Brien said there will be seven tow trucks that will be available that day and placed strategically throughout the city.

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