CFD launches new website

by Sonja J. Keith

The Conway Fire Department has launched a new website to provide weather and emergency-related information to residents.

The site – which links to the National Weather Service – will provide a variety of information in the event of a weather emergency or large fire. For example, if a fire requires an evacuation, the site will detail what streets are blocked and the area affected. The address is

Chief Bart Castleberry said the city’s warning sirens do a good job of alerting residents when there is threatening weather. “People always call us after the sirens go off to see if it’s clear,” Castleberry said. “Hopefully it will clear up some of the questions.”

Castleberry is quick to remind residents to heed weather warnings. “If you hear the storm siren, go inside and take shelter,” he said, explaining that firefighters have seen residents outside during severe weather. “Everybody is outside looking at the sky. They need to heed what the warning means.”

The chief said residents have the notion that “as long as they can see it, it is not going to get them,” which is wrong. He said situations can change very quickly during severe weather, and oftentimes it is flying debris, which results in serious injuries and fatalities. He said a storm shelter or reinforced safe room are a good idea.

Fast-moving water is also a serious threat, according to Castleberry. He said emergency crews will post barricades but motorists will still try to drive around them. “Every time we have to go get someone,” he said. “They are not heeding the warning.”

The chief said when a severe storm occurs, the department will be overwhelmed quickly, reinforcing the need for a website to distribute information.

He noted major tornadoes that hit cities like Joplin, Mo., and Tuscaloosa, Ala., that cut a wide path of destruction. Conway too has had its share of major storms. Castleberry believes Conway will be hit again but the question is “when” not “if” and whether the city will be prepared.

“People will have to be self-sufficient. They have to rely on their neighbors.”

The chief encourages residents who are not injured and are safe to stay at their location. “Hold your spot. We’ll get you out.” He said in a major disaster help is slow in coming because trees are down and roadways are covered in hazardous debris. “A lot you can’t write a plan for.” Attention will also be focused on medical and long-term care facilities “to help those who can’t help themselves.”

In preparation, residents should prepare an emergency kit so they can be self-reliant in the event that electric and water services are interrupted. “It may be days before someone can come your way.”

The fire chief also encourages residents to consider forming a Citizens Emergency Response Team (CERT) by contacting the Faulkner County OES office. By forming the team, residents become equipped with the information they need for emergencies – from what items they need to have on hand to basic first aid. “It teaches you how to help your neighbor and yourself.”

Items to have on hand include water, first aid supplies, flashlights, batteries, battery-operated radio, hard candy, canned food, items for small children/infants.

Castleberry recalled that the Conway department was one of the first to respond to Beebe after a devastating tornado. Their initial assignment was search and rescue but local residents had a tough time because of the damage caused. “One man told me, ‘I’ve lived here my whole life and I can’t tell you where I am.’”

“Heed your warnings. Be prepared to take action to help your neighbors,” Castleberry said. “It’s coming.”