Officials stress importance of being prepared

By Morgan McKinniss -

MASON COUNTY — Sept. 11 – Oct. 10 is National Emergency Preparedness Month, and the Mason County Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (HSEM) is working to prepare the public for common natural disasters to the area.

There are several common weather related disasters that affect the Ohio River Valley annually, and Mason HSEM is taking advantage of this month to educate the public through social media on how they can be better prepared.

“The most common weather related emergencies we have here in Mason County is flooding,” said Dennis Zimmerman, Mason 911 director.

He explained the nature of flash flooding and the inherent dangers, which include driving through flood waters. Even though a road may flood regularly and seem passable, there is always a substantial risk of entrapment in a flash flood, according to Zimmerman.

“What you don’t realize is that time and time again, that little stretch of road keeps getting flooded, it washes out beneath the pavement, and that one time you drive over it you’re going to sink,” stated Matt Gregg, deputy director of Mason HSEM.

“The first thing we tell people is ‘turn around, don’t drown’ because of the risk in flood waters,” stated Zimmerman. Looking at the current disaster in Texas with Hurricane Harvey, many of the deaths and rescues are attributed to people driving in flooded areas, explained Zimmerman.

“The most important thing someone can do, is to make a plan,” said Zimmerman. Part of having a plan is being prepared for an emergency.

Zimmerman and Gregg both strongly encourage each family to have a disaster kit that is good for 72 hours. They recommend visiting to learn about what is recommended to have in their kits. They also suggest that people remember uncommon items: medications, cash, a way to charge your cell phones, and pet supplies.

“It is nice for people to have a checklist in an emergency,” said Gregg. “If you know the creek is coming up, you know what to do because you planned, and that will help keep the chaos down and allow you to still function.”

This preparation allows a person to better manage what is going on around them. Planning also involves having a way to contact your family if a disaster occurs while at school or work. Knowing when and how to get in touch with your family is critical to dealing with an emergency.

The next important thing families can do to prepare is to be informed. Zimmerman explained the importance of heeding weather warnings. Their social media outlets are regularly updated with information about weather emergencies in Mason County. They also encourage the public to listen to credible weather sources.

“The National Weather Service owns all of the Doppler radars in the country,” stated Gregg. “People need to listen to what the National Weather Service is saying.”

He explained the discrepancy between news stations that led to confusion with Harvey.

“They’re all working with the same source of information but disagree over what will happen. You have to verify where your information is coming from,” said Gregg.

Zimmerman and Gregg both encourage people to check out to learn about proper emergency preparedness, and to pay attention to their Facebook page Mason County Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management for more information and articles about emergency preparedness.

By Morgan McKinniss

Reach Morgan McKinniss at 740-446-2342 ext 2108 or

Reach Morgan McKinniss at 740-446-2342 ext 2108 or