Safe Communities committee reviews four fatal accidents

From SAFE COMMUNITIES OF WOOD COUNTY Wood County Safe Communities’ Fatal Data Review Committee met on Tuesday, Jan. 8, to review 4 fatal crashes from the fourth quarter of 2018. The following fatal crashes were reviewed:  9/29/2018 26250 W. River Rd.  10/24/2018 Poe at Wapakoneta  11/15/2018 I-75 at Turnpike off-ramp (SR 795)  11/29/2018 I-475 at I-75 The following countermeasures were established:  Drive within the posted speed limit  Drive for weather conditions  Obey all traffic laws  Remain with your vehicle when disabled on the interstate. Call #677 or 911 for assistance

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Distracted driving – simulator teaches safety behind the wheel

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   With no warning, a car strays into the neighboring lane. “Is this not Bowling Green,” said Sandy Wiechman, Wood County Safe Communities coordinator. “You really have to pay attention.” The driver manages to avoid a collision, but seconds later, a dog runs into the street. She slams on the brakes, but it’s too late. “She just killed a dog,” Wiechman said. In this instance the dog and the driver are fine, since the crash occurred on Wood County Safe Communities’ distracted driving simulator. The simulator gives drivers an idea of the distractions out on the road, without the threat of injuries. The “driver” sits behind the steering wheel, with control of the wheel, the gas pedal and the brake. But there is much the driver has no control over. “You’ve got distractions all over the place,” Wiechman said. There’s a soccer ball that rolls out on the street, fire trucks approaching, construction cones, sun glaring into the windshield, school buses stopping, dogs and cats dashing into the road, pedestrians and bicyclists. And then there are the distractions inside the vehicle. There’s an annoying passenger who keeps asking the driver to make a call or text for him. In Wood County, about 4.5 percent of car crashes are blamed on driver distraction. In 2017, drivers reported the following distractions: Cell phone, 25; texting or emailing, 5; other electronic communication device, 7; electronic devices such as navigation devices, DVD player or radio, 39; others inside the vehicle, 99; and external distractions outside the vehicle, 84. Wiechman said the distractions go far beyond texting. Some people try eating lunch, check out the neighbor’s yard, or look to see if they know the bicyclist as they pass. “I refuse to do it just on texting. There are just so many things that can happen,” she said. “You never know when a kid is going to dart out into traffic,” Wiechman said. “One time can ruin your life and someone else’s life.” Even conversation in the car can be distracting. “You just have to pay 100 percent attention,” she said. It isn’t long before the “driver” is cut off by another car, swerves to avoid that vehicle and then hits an oncoming vehicle head-on. The simulator screen then gives the driver a view of the EMS crew standing over as an air ambulance lands nearby. The driving simulator is more important now, Wiechman said, since schools no long offer drivers education, and most students take driving classes online. “They think they are more in control than they really are,” she said. The simulator can also be used to show drivers the challenges of operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs. “It simulates drunk for you,” Wiechman said. After the motorist crosses into oncoming traffic, a police officer pulls the…

Fire simulation burns impression about safety

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   After watching a bedroom erupt into flames in a matter of seconds, local families likely examined their own homes a little closer when they went home on Saturday. For the first time, Bowling Green Fire Division’s annual open house featured a simulated fire scene. “I think it’s really hit home,” Fire Chief Bill Moorman said. “It’s going to really leave a lasting impression.” The fire scene showed two side-by-side bedrooms. One was riddled with fire hazards – cigarette butts on the floor, a candle left burning on the dresser, overloaded extension cords, small zip cords used improperly, and heavy furniture sitting on electrical cords. “I guarantee the kids are going to go home and check it out,” Moorman said. The fire structure was constructed by the Bowling Green firefighters specifically for the open house. The purpose was to show not just fire hazards, and the importance of smoke detectors, but also how quickly fire can spread, said firefighter/paramedic Nathan Espinoza. Very soon after the fire started in one bedroom, the temperature in the room hit 1,200 degrees, Espinoza said. The bedroom next door, with it’s door shut, stayed at 90 degrees – until the door was opened. “As soon as he opened the door, it shot up to 300 degrees,” Espinoza said. The safe bedroom was also equipped with a sprinkler system, which is becoming more standard in homes, Moorman said. Unlike smoke detectors which may go off when food is burned in the kitchen, the sprinklers are activated only when the temperature reaches certain temperatures. “The technology is very reliable,” the chief said. That information stuck with Emerson Jordan, 9, who was waiting his turn to use the fire hose to put out a pretend fire. “It puts out the fire before the firemen get there,” Emerson said about smoke detectors. Emerson also remembered the importance of keeping his bedroom door shut at night, to prevent a fire from quickly spreading. Hannah Sayler, 10, left the open house with the same knowledge. “If you have a sprinkler in your home, it’s good,” she said. Parents were similarly impacted by the fire simulation. “It’s going to make us go home and check all our stuff for fire safety,” Amanda Gamby said. Also at the fire open house, families watched a demonstration of extrication equipment on a van, got to spray a fire hose, and sat in fire trucks and ambulances. “We’ve had a lot of families here,” Moorman said. The fire open house is held every October, which is National Fire Safety Month.

BG schools to get state funding to improve safety

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   More than $12 million in grants have been awarded to Ohio schools to improve safety. All of Ohio’s public, chartered nonpublic, and schools operated by county boards of developmental disabilities will receive the greater of $2,500 or $5.65 per student to spend on school safety programs and training. Bowling Green City School District will receive $16,627. Other schools in the city will receive $2,500 each, including Bowling Green Christian Academy, Montessori School, St. Aloysius, and Wood Lane School. Schools will have the flexibility to use these grants for training for school resource officers, safety and security materials, and programs to identify and help students who may be struggling with their mental health. Bowling Green Superintendent Francis Scruci said that school districts in the area haven’t received official word about the grants. However, Attorney General Mike DeWine sent out a press release on Friday listing the districts and the amount they would be receiving. “If there is money for us, we will use it,” Scruci said Monday morning. “As a board, that’s what we’re committed to.” Though the board will determine how the funding is spent, Scruci predicted it would be used either on safety training for staff or on installing more 3M film over glass doors at school buildings. The covering makes it more difficult for the glass to be broken enough to allow entry to a building. “It creates an obstacle for an intruder for two and a half or three minutes,” Scruci said. “The delay allows time to get people to safety.” The grants are funded with appropriations made by the Ohio legislature as part of House Bill 318. The law requires that participating schools and county boards work with law enforcement in their jurisdictions to determine the best use of the grant funding. School district are also being encouraged to take advantage of two new school safety efforts recently launched by the Attorney General’s Office: Active Shooter Response: An Educator’s Guide: This 25-part video series was produced by the Attorney General’s Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy to aid educators in preparing for and reacting to a potentially violent school incident, such as a school shooting. The brief videos are an update to the training offered by OPOTA beginning in 2013 that provided guidance to nearly 15,000 educators on how to intervene with students who could pose a danger and how to respond in a crisis situation. Emergency Management Plan Aerial Photographs: Special agents with the Attorney General’s Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation are available to take free aerial photographs of school buildings for inclusion in school emergency management plans. BCI currently has six drones that are used primarily to document crime scenes and assist in missing persons cases, but BCI is offering to use its drones to take aerial photos of school campuses to…

Columbia Gas agrees to alert fire division immediately about dangerous leaks

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Columbia Gas officials have agreed to immediately notify Bowling Green Fire Division if gas leaks in the downtown construction area get close to dangerous levels again. “We’ve come to an understanding that they will call us immediately if there is a leak of significant levels,” Bowling Green Fire Chief Bill Moorman said Monday morning. Eleven days ago, a leak occurred in the downtown area of South Main Street, where Columbia Gas is replacing old natural gas lines. By the time the fire division was notified, the leaking gas had reached explosive levels, Moorman said. Last Friday, Columbia Gas officials agreed to meet with Moorman and Bowling Green Public Works Director Brian Craft. City officials wanted to make sure if a similar incident occurred in the future that it would be handled differently by the gas company. “We wanted to make sure we are called immediately,” Moorman said. “If we’re not needed, we can just go home” back to the fire station. When the leak occurred on the evening of Sept. 13, Bowling Green Fire Division was not notified about the gas leak until at least two hours after gas odors were strong enough that some businesses shut down on the west side of the 100 block of South Main Street. Those businesses included Grounds for Thought, Lahey Appliance and Coyote Beads. When the fire division arrived downtown, the smell of natural gas was obvious. Atmospheric tests done by firefighters showed explosive levels of gas. “The gas levels were at a dangerous level,” Fire Chief Bill Moorman said. “It was getting to the point that a spark, anything can really set it off. Pretty much anything ignites natural gas.” The Bowling Green Police Division joined the fire division in evacuating the businesses and residents in the general area of the leak in the 100 block of South Main Street. The street was also closed to traffic to reduce the risks. After the leak, Columbia Gas defended its response. “They followed all their protocols,” Moorman agreed. But city officials are not satisfied with those protocols. Cheri Pastula, communications and community relations manager for Columbia Gas, said the gas crews followed proper procedures. The fire division was notified when the gas company knew the electricity needed to be shut off, she said. The fire division removed the electric meter from the buildings involved. “We have gas professionals that are experienced in emergency response and will notify first responders when necessary,” Pastula said. “All of our policies and procedures were followed appropriately and most importantly, safely.” However, after Friday’s meeting with city officials, Columbia Gas officials agreed to go beyond their protocols and immediately call the fire division in the case of a significant leak. The work to replace aging gas lines downtown has been going on all summer. The work…

BG Schools takes steps to make buildings safer

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   As Bowling Green City Schools students went back to school today, they entered buildings that had been made safer over the summer. Superintendent Francis Scruci reported to the Board of Education Tuesday evening that several changes have been made and are in progress to keep students and staff safe from intruders. All school entrance doors have had 3M safety film installed. The change is not visible to the eye, but the film is designed to slow down anyone trying to break through the doors. According to Scruci, the safety film takes about three minutes to break through – which gives people inside the school time to seek safety and notify law enforcement. Ballistic shields have been added to the large windows in the middle school cafeteria. The district also made some changes in the new wing added at the middle school. Rather than have locker bays in the hallways, which give intruders a place to hide, the new wing has all the lockers lining the hallway walls. Also, the outside doors into the new wing are solid – with no windows. “We’ve taken some steps to make that a little safer,” Scruci said. In order make other school entrances more safe, bushes were removed or cut back outside school buildings. The district is in the process of installing indoor and outdoor surveillance cameras at the buildings, he said. Plans are being made with the Bowling Green police and fire divisions to make weekly walks through the school buildings – in addition to unscheduled visits. A security meeting is being planned with school staff, police and fire personnel, to talk about some type of safety training at the schools. That training may be on the ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evaluate) system, or some other safety program. Scruci and the district’s head of school building maintenance, Chuck Martin, recently attended a seminar on safety and security. Many of the ideas from the seminar had already been identified and were being worked on at the district’s buildings, Scruci said. Scruci said he will be looking for grant funding for safety measures. However, he added, “if they’re just one-time grants, then the district is going to have to sustain it.” Also at Tuesday’s meeting, Scruci reported on capital improvements made to school buildings during the summer. At Kenwood, the floor of the gymnasium was replaced, and any asbestos was removed. Several carpeted classroom floors were replaced at Conneaut and Kenwood elementaries. The district also replaced one boiler system. The custodial staff was praised for keeping the middle school looking good, despite all the construction nearby at the new wing being added on. Scruci also mentioned that the district brought back an old tradition before school began, of having some teachers ride a school bus for nearly 90 minutes throughout the…

Safe Communities urges caution as schools get back in session

From WOOD COUNTY SAFE COMMUNITIES Wood County Safe Communities announced today that there have been seven fatal crashes in Wood County compared to eight at this same time last year. *** August is back to school month for local school districts and higher education facilities in Wood County. When traveling rural roads, please be attentive to school buses in the area picking up and dropping off the precious cargo. Watch for increased traffic in the area of school buildings and be mindful of the 20-mph school zone speed limit during restricted times. Bowling Green State University (BGSU) will start its fall semester Aug. 27. Wooster Street is the main thoroughfare to enter the campus and shows a high volume of crashes from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Most crashes occur on Friday but with any event at BGSU, please be aware of the high volume of traffic and travel these areas with caution. Additionally, Owens Community College will start its fall semester in August. Watch for increased traffic on Oregon Road with students entering and exiting campus. Students are encouraged to be mindful of congestion in parking lots and be aware of their surroundings. Let’s prevent the high number of crashes that occur in your parking lots. Let’s make this back to school season the safest in history!!