Oktibbeha County Volunteer Fire Services will soon be better equipped to respond to community needs in case of extreme weather and disaster events.
Two of five county fire stations will receive diesel-powered secondary power generator this week, which OCVFS reports will reduce response times in case of power outages during disasters as well as allow stations to serve as shelters for the Oktibbeha community after a disaster.
The organization is installing the large, fixed generators at the Central Oktibbeha Fire Station in Longview and the East Oktibbeha Fire Station in Clayton Village with plans to soon equip the Adaton and Sturgis stations with portable generators.
Fire Services Coordinator Kirk Rosenhan said a secondary power system is already in place at the Oktibbeha District 5 Station in Oktoc.
Rosenhan said the U.S. Forest Service provided the government surplus generators through a $4,575 grant 4-County Electric Power Association awarded earlier this year.
“Tornado season is coming, and maybe ice storm season after that,” Rosenhan said. “We’ve been wanting to do this for years, and now we’re finally doing it.”
Rosenhan said the generators will keep lines open for emergency response and will also power potentially vital resources for the community, such as the stations’ kitchens, showers and central heat and air.
“We would be able to power our radios, battery chargers, lights, heating — that sort of thing,” Rosenhan said. “[Stations] could be used as shelters after a tornado or an ice storm.”
He said while stations will be available for relief after disasters, they are not designated shelters during extreme weather events like tornadoes, so Oktibbeha residents should seek immediate shelter elsewhere.
“We don’t want to put people in it when the tornado’s coming, but […] if the power is off for any length of time, we would still be ready to go, and we would provide shelter and assistance to people who are without power,” Rosenhan said.
Jon Turner, 4-County public relations manager, said the electric cooperative’s foundation awarded funding for the project in service of emergency response efforts and to help the members access services unavailable during extended power outages.
“If it’s that kind of catastrophic event, obviously we’re going to have our hands full — we’re trying to get the power back on to as many people as we can as quickly and as safely as we can,” Turner said. “Depending on what happens, that’s not always possible within a timely manner, so there’s setting up this place where folks can go and have shelter or power when they need it.”
Central Oktibbeha Fire Department Chief Joe Pennell said he could think of one clear example during his tenure where secondary power would have come in handy.
“When we had the previous ice storms and straight-line winds of (1994), the power got knocked out and our electric door operators did not work,” Pennell said. “Therefore, we had to climb up in the building to lift the doors. It takes two people – one to hold the door up and the other to drive the truck out.”
Pennell said because the secondary power can be up within 45 seconds after an outage, the system could improve response times by a matter of minutes. That time could drastically impact the outcome of an emergency response.
“Our trucks are all plugged into electric air pumps to keep our air brakes pumped up,” he said. “If you don’t have your air brakes pumped up, it takes as long as two minutes to for you to pull out of the station with the fire truck.”
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