A Columbus East High School student who knows what it feels like to weather a storm in a mobile home is trying to save lives during tornado season.
Junior Gaige Clidinst, 17, has created informational pamphlets with severe weather safety tips that he will distribute starting today at mobile home parks throughout Bartholomew County.
Clidinst is working on the project with help from the Columbus Police Department cadet program.
He said he wanted to do his senior project during his junior year to free up time and focus on other schoolwork during his final year of high school.
He came up with the idea for the senior project after experiencing severe weather in a mobile home he and his family lived in while they were building a house.
“We had it tied down, but it was still rocking and it was kind of nerve-wracking,” he said of that storm. “It’s a very scary, a very dangerous situation.”
According to Clidinst’s brochure, mobile homes can flip in winds of 60 mph or more. In the event of a tornado, there is no safe place in a mobile home.
He decided people who live in mobile homes should have more notification and a plan in place when severe weather is predicted.
The brochure he put together encourages residents to have an action plan before severe weather strikes, to buy a National Oceanic Atmospheric Association weather radio with a battery back-up and to sign up for the Everbridge alert system.
Everbridge is a mass notification system that notifies users of severe weather or other emergency situations in their area. Users can be notified of conditions in multiple areas including their neighborhoods, work places and schools.
The notifications can be sent by text message, email and phone call.
Police Chief Jason Maddix said there are 24 mobile home parks in Bartholomew County consisting of 2,170 homes.
Public safety representatives here will help Clidinst canvass different mobile home parks and distribute the brochures.
“All of public safety is engaged in this,” Maddix said. “We’ve got all of Bartholomew County emergency management folks involved, the Red Cross has been involved, the Columbus Police Department and the sheriff’s department have been involved.”
Maddix said county township emergency departments would be involved in the effort as well.
The Bartholomew County Emergency Operations Center manages the Everbridge alert system, which was put into effect in September 2012, director Ed Reuter said.
The alert system currently sends messages to about 25,000 residents in the county. There’s still about 50,000 residents who don’t use the system, but Reuter is hopeful Clidinst’s plan will reduce that number.
Among the residents who don’t typically subscribe to the notification program are people who live in mobile home parks and apartment complexes, Reuter said.
“This young man has taken on this project and he’s going to help us promote this,” Reuter said.
Clidinst said he plans to keep promoting the alert system and the importance of planning during severe weather situations at different events throughout the summer and into his senior year.