During last week's snowstorm, the Putnam County 911 Dispatch and the Sheriff's Department were bombarded with phone calls from people asking what emergency levels meant.
"We were hit really hard at dispatch. People didn't know what a level two warning meant. People wanted to know if they could still drive to work in a level two warning. It was hard to keep up with the phone calls," said Putnam County 911 Director Dave Costin.
"So was the Sheriff's Department," added Putnam County Sheriff Steve Fenwick. "People were calling asking if we would write them an excuse for work. Our phones were really tied up."
None of the emergency levels carry any penalties, said County Planner Kim Hyten. Although he emphasized that police can write a ticket to anyone who is causing a hazard on the road.
"That can include being in an accident or getting stuck or just being out messing around when you shouldn't be," added Hyten.
When the county commissioners declare an emergency, they have the option of choosing one of four levels.
* A level one emergency restricts travel to emergency personnel only.
* A level two warning is when conditions threaten public safety. Only essential traffic is recommended, such as to and from work and for emergency situations. Businesses, schools, government agencies and other organizations should implement their emergency action plans to determine if travel is required.
* A level three watch means routine travel or activities may be restricted in an area because of a hazardous situation. The public should use caution or avoid these areas. Schools and businesses may implement their emergency action plans.
* A level four caution is issued when a condition develops that limits or hinders travel or activities in isolated areas. No travel restrictions are reported, but citizens should be alert to changing conditions.
"None of these levels lets us not allow you to go to work. If you need to go to work, you need to go. We do encourage everyone to know what their company or organization's emergency plan is and to follow it," said Hyten.