Adams County will no longer have any code-black emergencies, and Level 3 emergencies in Allen County might become more common.
Nine months after a blizzard buried much of Indiana in snow, leaving residents confused by myriad emergency levels, the state announced a uniform emergency reporting system Friday.
Unlike Ohio, where state law details a uniform weather emergency system, Indiana previously allowed counties and cities to determine their own procedures. This led to a patchwork of systems across northeast Indiana with neighboring counties using vastly different methods and rules when declaring a snow emergency.
The hodgepodge of systems created a situation where one county has an emergency, the one next to it has something called Level 2 and a third with no emergency at all.
Adams County, for example, used a four-tiered, color-coded emergency system that ranged from green to black.
John Erickson, spokesman for the Indiana Department of Homeland Security, said February’s blizzard prompted the state to begin examining a uniform system.
“There were obviously issues with communication and consistency,” he said. “It’s very important everybody is on the same page.”
The new statewide system offers four tiers ranging from a caution to a declared emergency. It might initially cause some confusion for Allen County residents, as the numbers are the opposite of the county’s old system.
Under the new state system, a Level 1 emergency is the most severe. It will be coded red and could limit travel to emergency personnel only.
The statewide map showing different counties and their emergency levels would be posted online to allow people to see potential danger before traveling.
Erickson said he didn’t know specifics why a Level 1 was worse than a Level 3, the opposite of how emergencies work in Ohio, but he said people in many levels of emergency response were involved in the decision.
He said all counties have been informed about the new reporting system and should begin using it immediately, even for this weekend’s pending snowstorm. The spokeswoman for the Allen County commissioners, however, hadn’t yet heard about the new system, although she said the commissioners could be aware.
Even with the new reporting system, local emergency declarations still rest with each county. The county emergency management director is in charge of determining which level of emergency is appropriate. The county commissioners then have the power to determine what types of restrictions are in place under each level of emergency.