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The Strategy of Getting Along with Others

In the week after Thanksgiving, I am still thinking about the warnings I was hearing from people concerning discussions around the thanksgiving dinner table. In fact, some people were even talking about creating a Thanksgiving “Safe Space” where people could go to escape the opinions of others. Some things divide people. There are topics that are so polarizing that they cannot be discussed without going off the rails. Living in the Midwest, one of these polarizing issues is shale oil exploration and gas pipelines. As an emergency manager, are you able to move past your own feelings, for the safety of others?

Erie Emergency & Crisis Consulting is currently working on designing a delivering an emergency exercise for a SE Ohio county. This exercise is going to involve the testing and exercising of the emergency plan as it pertains to the gas pipelines that run through the county. Because of this, I have been doing some research about the area and specifically the pipelines to better acclimate myself to the region and the concerns that we may encounter. I came across an article that floored me. There is a pipeline coming through Hocking County that has caused some conflict in the area, but something interesting happened. The TransCanada’s Leach XPress pipeline project involves construction of approximately 160 miles of new “greenfield” natural gas pipeline and compression facilities in southeastern Ohio and West Virginia.[1] A large portion comes right through the county that I am going to be working with.

Despite all the issues, and there were multiple, the community reached out to the pipeline crew, inviting them to church. Hearing of the act of kindness to his crew, the supervisor invited the entire church to a pizza party with the workers, and they came. According to Lois Kempton, who writes a weekly column published in The Logan Daily News, “New friendships were forged and we got to know each other over a shared meal. Hispanic, African Americans, Caucasians, all together, all having a great time. No talk about the evils of pipelines. Adults behaving like adults. What a breath of fresh air!”[2]

Emergencies cannot wait for people to get along, and they happen despite setting up “safe spaces” or refusing to talk to one another. We should learn a lesson from a small community in SE Ohio, walk across the room, and engage with those we have issues. This SE Ohio County is more prepared today for an emergency involving the pipeline because they decided they needed to set aside their preconceived notions and connect. An emergency will affect the whole community, so they whole community needs to be involved in preparing.



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