NORTHFIELD: Village Police Chief Mark Wentz wants to be like his hero, Angelo Centorbi, in a digital way.
When Wentz was a patrolman in North Randall and Centorbi was the chief, he marveled at the boss’s encyclopedic knowledge.
“Angelo knew the size of every pipe and line underneath the pavement in that village,” Wentz said. “The reason he did was because he was there when they built it. He knew where the cutoff valves were, he knew where the sewer lines went because he was there when they built it.”
Centorbi is retired now, and while he is happy to answer telephone calls, the institutional knowledge is gone.
Wentz knows how important that knowledge can be in a crisis and wants to make sure his town is ready for anything, including evacuation of the entire town.
“One of the things that I want to get done before I retire in 3½ years is that I don’t want the next chief or the next group of people not knowing,” he said.
The fact that Northfield covers only 1.5 square miles and totals 3,800 residents but can benefit from a sophisticated plan is an indication every town could benefit from that technology.
Since 9/11, towns have been required to put thousands of details into formal safety plans. They usually take the form of binders filled with papers 5 inches thick. Searching them could be frustrating, especially in the charged atmosphere of a crisis.
Wentz wants something better, and Roy Meadows is offering to help.
They are digitizing every security detail in town and putting it into a format that would be quick and easy to find in an emergency. It’s similar to a plan Meadows made for Nordonia High School but on a larger scale.
Instead of residing in a book kept in city hall and maybe a county office, the plan is on a computer disc and eventually will be on a federally maintained and secured website. If a police officer, firefighter or other authority needs it, he could inspect the data from a smartphone anywhere in town.
It could include the telephone number of animal control or the governor’s office. It could reveal the plan for saving horses at the racetrack or getting people out of a school gymnasium quickly.
Ordinarily, assembling that data was the work of a police officer, but with graphic arts and other digital skills, Meadows and his staff at Foremost Safety Solutions Inc., can do it much faster.
Wentz has experience with small printing jobs and knows some of the technology but admits, “I still can’t do it as fast as Roy does.”
Northfield is small, but it has more than its share of security issues.
Northfield Park racetrack has been there for decades, but the new Hard Rock Rocksino can hold up to three times the town’s population.
Wentz said he worked closely with Rocksino personnel to document the casino’s security plans and get them into the village safety plan. Rocksino officials did not return telephone calls for comment on this story.
Tracks present threat
The railroad tracks only a few yards east of the horse track are in Macedonia but present a threat to the village. The safety plan includes an estimation of the blast pattern — more than a mile wide — should a propane tank on the tracks explode. It also has details for how to respond after a blast.
Wentz said he has worked closely with neighboring communities, and they are watching the project as it proceeds.
The village also has a water resource that is crucial to the entire Cleveland area.
Because it is dominated by the already-crowded state Route 8 (Northfield Road), evacuation of the village could be difficult. The plan includes a color-coded map that would show an escape route for everyone in the city.
So Northfield packs a lot of security issues in a small area, and all of the information would be a few clicks away, much less time than it takes to leaf through a huge paper document. The paper document is still required, but much of its data are easily digitized and improved, Meadows said.
Wentz has been chief for 13 years and has wanted to complete the project all that time. Once he and Meadows committed to it, the job was finished quickly, perhaps two solid weeks of work spread out over three months.
Best of all, as things change, the document can keep changing instantly.
Meadows is offering his work for free. It might cost $5,000 otherwise. “You got to give back to your communities,” he said.
He also admits to a profit motive. He will sell his skills to other communities — for a fee.
Dave Scott can be reached at 330-996-3577 or firstname.lastname@example.org.