January 7, 2014

In My Opinion: Fair evacuation plan needs review

A year has come and gone with another great professional job done by our Clinton County Fair management, putting on its best yet entertainment. 

A week after the 2013 fair, I received a letter at the Center for Independence office in Plattsburgh. The letter consisted of observations by both family members in the grandstand and others in the reserved seating for the disabled on the front deck.

The deck and ramp designated for the disabled has been modified from previous years, and as far as the construction goes, there’s no fault in the work. The ramp complies with Americans with Disabilities Act requirements and appears to be more than adequate to handle a large number of our disabled community.

But in the event that a weather incident, like lightning or a fast-moving thunderstorm should cause the need for a swift evacuation of the deck and grandstand, serious problems would occur.

The ramp leads up to the deck but also provides the gateway to the grandstand via the deck. Because of this, the deck space for the disabled was shortened to 18 feet from 35 feet and can now accommodate only three to four wheelchairs and one personal-aide chair each.

The space in front of the steps to the grandstand and along the sides of the ramp will be filled with parked baby carriages and strollers because families are unable to bring them up into the grandstands since there is no place to store them.

The ramp width was reduced to 12 inches and now itself has become a choke point if an emergency should arise. 

What does all this mean? It would be a nightmare for the authorities to try to evacuate 1,000 people in the grandstand down on to the deck and down the ramp, which would be plugged except for a 1-foot space between the carriages and strollers. 

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