Residents plan to be ready if disaster strikes

LAKE WYLIE -- Area residents say the only thing worse than a community disaster may be a community unprepared for one.

Wanting no such excuses, the River Hills Community Association is partnering with the York County Office of Emergency Management to host a Disaster Preparedness Forum on Feb. 12 for the Lake Wylie community at Camp Thunderbird.

"The only problem we feel like we have here is being uninformed," said Martha Simmons, administrator for the association. "We want everybody (there). We want Autumn Cove, The Landing, everybody in the immediate area."

The association members and River Hills Security formed their own disaster plan and decided to reach out to the community after contacting York County.

"We just kind of got the ball rolling," said Dean Schillinglaw, chief of security.

Several factors make Lake Wylie unique in York County in terms of potential disasters, said Cotton Howell, director of the York County Office of Emergency Management: The nearby Catawba Nuclear Station, a body of water large enough to cause problems, and proximity to North Carolina, which could cause confusion with differing information on either side of the state line during an emergency, are at issue.

"A lot of the area has new residents, people who are not familiar with the area," he said.

A major concern for homeowners along the lake is access to roadways and the number of homes along those roads.

"Most of them just have one road in and one road out that a lot of people live on," Howell said.

While the forum will focus on regional emergencies, residents with specific questions about smaller incidents, such as a single house fire, are encouraged to contact Howell before the meeting.

"We'll be glad to come with a more prepared response than just a general answer," Howell said.

Howell said community input on issues of concern will help create the most effective disaster response plan.

"We're not going in there with an agenda," he said. "We're hoping to find out what residents are concerned with, which helps us do a better job."