Final Solar Eclipse Planning meeting held

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total eclipse

GREENVILLE – On Thursday afternoon, the Darke County Emergency Management Agency hosted the final Solar Eclipse Planning meeting before the big event weekend. The Darke County EMA’s deputy director, Ken Johnson, led the meeting. 

Traffic is the main focus and concern for the weekend, and the expected days that will be impacted are Thursday, April 4, through Tuesday, April 9. 

Johnson went on to discuss communication, stating that cellphone signals and Wi-Fi will be significantly impacted. This raises concerns about calling 911 in emergency situations. 

Setting up a PACE plan was suggested. PACE stands for Primary, Alternate, Contingency, and Emergency. 

If you have a problem reaching dispatch with 911, EMA suggests trying a phone with another carrier (AT&T versus Verizon, etc.), try to locate a landline and call that way, enable Wifi calling on your phone, calling the county non-emergency number (937) 548-2020, go to the closes EMS, Fire, or Law enforcement station, or go to the closest hospital while continuing to attempt to reach 911. 

It was noted that if you go to an EMS, Fire, or Law enforcement station, you should be aware that there may not be anyone there if they are out on call helping the citizens. 

They also discussed Government Emergency communication services, including the GETS/WPS app, as they have in previous meetings. They also discussed setting up the Code Red app on phones in case of emergency. 

If you need information on the Darke County Eclipse that weekend, FM 97.5 WTGR “The Tiger” will have regular updates and public safety information. You can also look at the official Darke County Public Safety Platforms to receive updates. On Facebook, it’s @DarkeCountySheriff; on Instagram, it’s @DarkeCountySheriffsOffice; and on X (Twitter), it’s @DarkeCoSheriff. 

Johnson then gave a list of things to help prepare for the solar eclipse and the weekend celebration. This included fueling up and running errands before April 6, preparing for possible traffic congestion/delays, especially near major state routes, keeping all roads clear for emergency vehicle access, traveling with water, medication, and other needed supplies, beginning the day with a fully charged phone and carry extra power devices, never look directly at the sun including during the eclipse, use eclipse glasses and check them for scratches before use.

Many organizations around the county gave updates in the meeting. 

Darke County Parks shared that they have three locations to watch the eclipse: Bear’s Mill, Shawnee Prairie, and Prairie Ridge Meadow. From 1 pm to 5 pm, each location will have music, food trucks, entertainment, and family-friendly activities. They are hoping the extended hours around the eclipse will help with traffic flow so that not everyone is leaving all at once. 

The Darke County Fairgrounds shared that their campgrounds are full; they will be having a food truck rally through the entire weekend (April 5, 6, 7, and 8), and they will be opening the back parking lot and charge on the day of the eclipse. 

The Garst Museum will be open from 10 am – 1 pm on eclipse day with tickets at a discounted price. 

The Darke County Educational Service Center stated that all county schools are planning a waiver day or calamity day on April 8. 

Fire departments and EMS stations are planning on having as many staff as possible through the eclipse weekend. 

The Ohio Department of Transportation will have one portable message board that they will get with the Sheriff’s Department to discuss the location of it. They plan on being staffed through the event. 

The Darke County Sheriff’s office shared that they will be heavily staffed throughout the weekend, including dispatch. They also shared that their biggest concern is traffic. They plan on increasing staffing on the road all weekend and posting deputies in strategic areas of the county in an effort to reduce response times. They are also making plans to help monitor and manage traffic at US127 and State Route 49. Other areas of concern are US127 and State Route 47 and US127 and US36. 

“Keep our roadways, our county, state, and our highways clear for emergency traffic, or you can be subject to citation,” Sheriff Whittaker said. “I think the number one most important thing we need to let visitors know is that they can’t stack up our county and township roads or even our highways and start blocking our roadways, not allowing our emergency vehicles to pass through should an emergency occur.” 

The State Highway Patrol announced that they will have four people in the area: a lieutenant, a sergeant, and two troops. 

Greenville Police Department shared they will have extra staffing both on foot and in cars. 

Wayne Health primary care will be open from 7 am – 5 pm. All other partners in that building will be shut down. Wayne Health is also planning a tabletop in-house for Code Yellow, disaster triage, from April 5 through April 8. 

Family Health will see patients until noon on April 8; its doors will close at 1 pm so they can get staff home and off the roads.

The Emergency Operations Center (EOC) will be activated at 8 am on April 8. EOC is a centralized location of emergency response and recovery support operations during large planned events or incidents. They are located at 5183 County Home Rd. and will be mainly in an assessment mode. 

Johnson also shared that a County Wide Incident Action plan is being created.