By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN
BG Independent News
Jeff Klein is accustomed to handling emergencies. Now he’s helping people plan to prevent them.
Klein has been named director of the Wood County Emergency Management Agency. He served as deputy director under recently retired Brad Gilbert.
Prior to that, Klein spent more than 30 years in the fire service – most recently as fire chief in Perrysburg. So shifting gears to methodical planning rather than rushing to respond is a little different for Klein.
“One of the hardest things for me was I had to pick my clothes out,” said Klein, who wore a firefighter uniform for years.
Anyone who knows Klein, knows he has a wicked rapid-fire sense of humor. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t take his job very seriously.
He knows much of his job is educating people about how to prepare themselves for the next disaster.
“The sad reality is people think ‘it’s never going to happen to me.’ But somebody in this county is going to be the next house fire and the next flooding,” he said.
So Klein wants to help people plan for those terrible moments in their lives.
“Everybody knows the difference between a tornado watch and a tornado warning – but nobody knows what to do,” he said.
Preparation can make a big difference. Before big snow storms people should make sure they are stocked up on items like their medications and pet foods.
“It’s not just going to Kroger and buying up all the bread,” he said. “When the blizzard comes, you need to be prepared.”
If people plan ahead, they can avoid making problems even worse by having to rush around in inclement weather. “How do I prepare my family, so we don’t get stuck on the highway,” when it’s best to just stay home, he said.
Some prevention efforts take more time – and money. For example, if a bigger retention pond might save a home from being flooded, that might be a good investment.
“Nobody likes to spend money,” Klein said.
But if disaster strikes, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and insurance coverage will likely pay just a fraction of the costs to reimburse a family’s losses.
“You play a big role in this,” by planning ahead, he said.
As EMA director, Klein will continue working on the Code Red system that Gilbert began. The Code Red alerts will notify local residents of such events as bad weather headed this way or a hazardous material incident in their area.
All landlines in the county will automatically be hooked up for the Code Red alerts. Cell phone users will have to register for the notifications. People will also be able to choose different options of which alerts they wish to receive.
Klein plans to keep building on Gilbert’s work.
“I think Brad really got a great foundation,” he said.
So that means that in addition to planning, Klein will also get to respond to disasters – and still get to work side by side with the first responders he has known for decades.
“I’m having fun,” Klein said with a smile.