Thursday, September 24, 2015

Disasters and Emergency Management in Licking County

The Licking County Emergency Management Agency has provided disaster preparedness and response programs since 1988.  EMA replaced other local agencies which planned for and reacted to civil defense matters and natural disasters. Recently the Records & Archives Department has collected material from EMA, as well as some other items related to disaster management, civil defense and disasters in Licking County.  These include photographs, maps, planning documents and other objects, mostly from the 1970's through the 90's.  Several photographs are unidentified.  If you were involved in emergency relief efforts during this period, or otherwise might be able to identify people and incidents shown in the pictures, we would like to talk to you!

Emergency personnel examining an accident scene

A house severely damaged by a storm
From early in the county's history, residents have helped each other recover from tornadoes, floods and other calamities.  In 1825, a very destructive tornado tore through the northern part of the county.  The tornado killed three boys and several farm animals.  It also destroyed buildings and leveled large stretches of forests and orchards.  Local people gathered together afterwards and helped each other with rescue efforts and cleanup.

A logjam, probably sometime during the 1990's
Flooding along the Licking River and its tributaries has often presented challenges.  Some of the most serious floods that have been recorded in the county occurred in the years 1898, 1913, 1937, 1959, 1990 and 1995.  Several other floods have also endangered lives and caused property damage.
Unidentified rescuers, saving one of Man's Best Friends after a flood

Helping a woman leave her home (persons and location are unidentified)

Other natural and man-made occurrences have had major impacts as well.  In 2012, the derecho which hit central Ohio caused many local households to be without electrical power for several days.  The Licking County EMA studied the nature and effects of the event, and developed new procedures for activities such as public alerts.  EMA also devised plans for responding to the possibility of a dam burst.  This was especially significant recently, due to the deterioration of Buckeye Lake Dam.

In wartime, Licking Countians have participated in preparedness programs in case enemy forces became active in the area.  During World War II, civilians throughout the United States served regular shifts as aircraft spotters, watching the skies in case enemy airplanes intruded.  Civil defense activities continued during the Cold War, when the nation faced threats of nuclear and other forms of attack.  Buildings such as the Licking County Courthouse and the Tuberculosis Sanitorium were designated as fallout shelters.

Illustration from a 1956 civil defense guidebook entitled"Home Protection Exercises: A Family Action Program"

Sticker indicating a civil defense unit

The Records & Archives Department unfortunately does not have material associated with earlier disasters such as the 1825 tornado, but information about 19th- and 20th-Century events can be found in published county histories and old newspaper articles.  To help us identify photographs, or to generally view our late-20th century EMA materials, please contact us at tel. 740-670-5121.