Local officials discuss planning for severe weather

Meeting of the minds: Chilton County Schools Superintendent Tommy Glasscock (left) and other local officials discuss the county’s severe weather response Wednesday at the Board of Education central office off Lay Dam Road.

Meeting of the minds: Chilton County Schools Superintendent Tommy Glasscock (left) and other local officials discuss the county’s severe weather response Wednesday at the Board of Education central office off Lay Dam Road.

As Chilton County School Superintendent Tommy Glasscock was pondering whether to let students out early Wednesday, or start schools late on Thursday, he was far from alone in the decision-making process.

Glasscock invited several local officials to the school board central office off Lay Dam Road in Clanton to talk about Chilton County’s response to severe weather­—now and in the future.

Present at the meeting Wednesday were Sheriff John Shearon, Chilton County Commission Chairman Allen Caton, Chilton County EMA Director Derrick Wright, David Hicks with the Clanton Police Department, Board of Education President Lori Patterson and Schools Transportation Supervisor Jason Griffin.

Glasscock said he visited the Alabama Emergency Management Agency center in Clanton and saw how state officials come together and make decisions about weather response.

“I’m not smart enough to decide whether we should close schools,” Glasscock said about the need to involve others in the decision-making process. “What I saw at the state EMA made a lot of sense.”

It was suggested that meetings be called when severe weather was expected, so that officials can take a proactive approach rather than just reacting once a weather event happens.

Shearon stressed the need for communication among leaders, and Caton said that while many people want to provide information, they often have a personal agenda.

Hicks said the group should also be prepared to make a contingency plan in case of new developments during a weather event.

Glasscock said many people might not realize what is entailed in a decision to close schools, including students not receiving meals and possibly being dropped off to an empty home.

“It’s a logistical nightmare,” Glasscock said.

Glasscock suggested the board of education meeting room could be used as a conference call center during preparation for weather events, and that the local model could serve as a pilot program for other counties in the state.

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