Emergency center opens in Hopkinsville as thousands of visitors arrive for eclipse

(Photo: WKRN)

HOPKINSVILLE, Ky. (WKRN) – Kentucky Emergency Management activated a Regional Response Coordination Center (RRCC) in Hopkinsville Saturday morning in preparation for the eclipse.

The center allows seamless communication between sixteen federal, state, local and private agencies as thousands of people travel to the area.

In the RRCC, each agency has a person tracking reports within their own department. That person can then disperse information as needed.

“We’re really concerned with the population surge in the rural areas,” Mike Poynter told News 2. He’s the Executive Director of the Kentucky Board of Emergency Services. “The two lane and state highways are not really set up for it so we’ve really beefed up our resources and assets.”

News 2 spoke with Poynter at the RRCC. He said his agency is prepared for anything; from a car crash to a terrorist attack.

They have more than 100 ambulances, 10 medical helicopters and one fixed-wing aircraft ready to go if needed.

“If you’ve got gridlock, the ambulances can’t move so we had to develop a plan to get a patient from point A to point B,” he said. “In our field we have to plan for the very worst and have the resources to accommodate that but we hope for the very best.”

The Kentucky Fire Commission also had a station within the RRCC.

Ronnie Day with the Kentucky Fire Commission told News 2 they’re there to provide extra manpower and equipment, especially in rural areas where people are camping.

“It could be really difficult to find somebody if they had an issue,” said Day. “Our folks are here and the firefighters are ready to respond to assist those folks with that.”

The Office of Emergency Management has their mobile command unit parked outside of the RRCC for the eclipse.

Normally reserved for massive emergencies, the unit is being used to communicate via radio to Christian County and the six surrounding counties. Those messages are then relayed to the RRCC.

If for some reason communication lines go down, the unit can also deploy and provide phone service.

“We know there’s going to be a large mass of people observing the event and whenever you have a large mass of people you’ll also have issues that come up,” said Colonel Wilson Polidura with the Civil Air Patrol. “We want people to be safe and enjoy this once in a lifetime event.”

Polidura says the Civil Air Patrol is also in communication with people on the ground and in the sky to monitor traffic and public safety.

The center will be open through Monday and can stay open after Monday, if needed.

Emergency Management officials sent the following tips to help citizens and visitors be prepared.

  1. Ensure you have an emergency kit for your family and car in case you are stranded
  2. Pack plenty of water for high heat temperatures during events; drink plenty of fluids – increase your normal fluid intake regardless of your activity level
  3. Wear appropriate clothing and sunscreen.
  4. Apply an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) registered insect repellent such as DEET, picardin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus or a para-methane-diol or 2-undecanone.
  5. Be sure your hands are clean to avoid sickness and spreading of germs – if soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  6. Ensure eclipse glasses or handheld solar viewers meet the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 12312-2 international standard for eye and face protection products intended for direct observation of the sun (homemade filters or ordinary sunglasses, even very dark ones, are NOT safe for looking at the sun);  telescopes with solar filters can be used – never look through a telescope without a solar filter on the large end of the scope – never use small solar filters that attach to the eyepiece as found on some older telescopes.

Visit wkrn.com/eclipse for all the resources and information you need.