VERSAILLES – A tornado hits a Ripley County community, leaving destruction in its path.
Homes are destroyed, and people are left homeless as rescue workers begin the task of reaching survivors and setting up shelters.
This scenario has occurred before and may happen again.
In February, Ripley County Emergency Management Agency officials conducted a damage assessment workshop to be better prepared for the upcoming tornado season.
EMA director Patrick Rose said the purpose of the damage assessment team is to assess and identify the scope of damage to an area, to reassure citizens there is a plan and local government is involved and to work efficiently and safely and keep the incident command informed of progress or significant events/findings.
He told attendees, “From now on, when we have an incident, this (EMA office, Versailles) is where you report to, the emergency operations center. We’ll have communications here first before going to the scene.”
Other officials who will be involved in the process are the commissioners, auditor and assessor, he revealed.
After the initial response has culminated, a press release will be given to the media, with updates being posted on Facebook and the county Web site.
Each damage assessment team will have one or two tablets (small computers), radios, a laptop, damage assessment forms, safety vests and photo identification badges. Safety equipment, such as hard hats and goggles, will also be available. Their goal is to provide accurate data in the Indiana Grants Management system within 72 hours.
The team will look at structures and fill out an assessment form to determine the amount of damage that was sustained. “It’s your best guess,” Rose pointed out. “It’s not a life-or-death decision.
“You’ll need to tell people why we’re out there. We have to have the police there because of the higher friction that occurs in situations like this. These people have had their stuff destroyed, and they may think we are very intrusive.”
However, he also emphasized that damage assessment team members are “not qualified building inspectors or qualified to provide an opinion about whether a structure is not inhabitable. You’re not an insurance representative, and you are not authorized to speculate on insurance issues. You’re not authorized to enter private homes or businesses, and you’re not a first responder.”