Emergency Technology Has Come A Long Way Since 1970
Since 1970, technology to warn the public of danger has dramatically improved. City officials tell NewsChannel 11 they rely on local TV stations to warn the public, but they have many technological advances they rely on to manage a disaster. Emergency Management Coordinator Ken Olson says, "We can flip a switch and we're actually live on Lubbock Cable Channel 2." Lubbock's Emergency Management Center has undergone many changes since 1970. Olson says, "Turn it on, pick up the mic and you're ready to go, easy as that."
Not only can anyone who needs to get info to the public appear on cable at the flip of a switch, but an advanced geographic information system can tell emergency officials volumes about who needs help and where. Olson explains, "Whatever the problem, we can go sit at the map and focus on the area and count the number of residents effected. We can use it to provide security around the area, we can use it to provide information, to provide search and rescue, and provide damage assessment."
In 1970 damaged lines hindered communication between emergency responders but today there's a backup to the 800 megahertz radio system, and there's backup power that can light up an entire city block. Olson says, "All systems in this building will work unlike in 1970. Just certain areas were provided power."
If a tornado hit Lubbock today, police would still provide security and the fire department would still perform search and rescue procedures. Fire Chief Steve Hailey says, "Probably, back in 1970, we had crow bars and chains and now we have lift devices and listening devices where we can listen to a collapsed structure and see if we can hear somebody."
In the 35 years since Lubbock's encounter with a twister, one thing has not changed in emergency response and probably never will. Olson recalls, "A lot of police officers just reported to duty and a lot of firefighters just reported to duty and that would be the same if we had it today."
Olson stresses the emergency plan in 1970 was well thought out and well executed. It's basic structure is the same structure we use today.
The F-5, which is the highest a tornado can be rated, struck Lubbock on May 11th, 1970. It killed 26 people and injured hundreds. Retired Lubbock Police Information Officer, Bill Morgan remembers the disaster like it was yesterday, recalling the strange colors in the sky.