WKYT Investigates | New initiative hopes to keep Amish community safe during bad weather
BATH COUNTY, Ky. (WKYT) - Two years ago, five Amish children were swept away in a creek in Bath County, and all of them tragically passed away.
Now, there’s a new push to help get weather alerts to the Amish community. It’s a difficult task, because their religious beliefs prevent them from owning computers, phones, televisions, or radios, but officials in Bath County have come up with a creative solution to that problem.
For some in Bath County, Adams Road is just a quiet country road. But on April 29, 2020, things looked a lot different.
What first responders found on that road that day was truly devastating.
“Things changed dramatically as information came in that a horse pulling a buggy with five kids, and one adult, had been washed off this low water bridge,” said Brent Frizzell, chief of the Salt Lick Fire Department.
Multiple agencies showed up within minutes to assist in the search for finding the children.
“I heard what was taking place and I had a bad feeling about what the outcome would be,” said Andrew Owens, the Bath County coroner.
That bad feeling became a reality when one of the bodies was found.
“She was probably found within 100 yards of her home with those kids,” Frizzell said.
As the evening went on, three of the other children had been recovered and a fifth child was found in the following days.
“I remembered all during that day while we were searching, you could hear the hammering, nailing, you just, you know what that noise is, and it was them building the coffins for those children,” said Jason York, the Bath County emergency management director.
“After two years, it’s still tough to talk about because you know, you get to know these people personally and then also I have children of my own, and you don’t ever get over it. You learn to cope with it,” Owens said.
When any child passes, Bath County officials form a committee to review the situation and while they had signs up, they knew they did the best they could in that situation, but wondered how they could prevent it in the future.
“And I used to think that sharing on social media and doing all those things was plenty, and I felt really good about that,” York said.
But for folks in Amish communities, relaying information like that doesn’t work.
“I wanted to shift the focus away from thinking about it, to trying to prevent it from happening again,” York said.
That’s when the Warn Project was born.
“There was nothing. There was no safety information from any organization for the Amish population,” said Jane Marie Wix, warning coordination meteorologist for National Weather Service Jackson.
Taking a step back is, in some cases, reinventing the wheel, and for the Amish community, they have limitations on the technology they use. A normal weather radio has an AM/FM signal, along with giving weather alerts. So for Amish families, they needed something that can give the weather alerts with just the push of a button.
“We actually started talking to Midland Weather Radio and we talked to them about the restrictions of the population, that they would be willing to get weather information if it fit within their lifestyle,” Wix said.
From then, the radio idea started to blossom.
“Its going to be solar-powered with a backup crank,” Wix said. “It has the weather radio only. So no AM/FM. No extra frills.”
Along with creating other sources of weather information to give to the Amish communities.
“While we can’t stop loss of life, we can education and get information to people and make better choices,” Wix said.
This program has now turned into a national initiative and in just two short years, has just taken off. What had happened in Bath County will likely save many Amish families in the future.
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