Franklin County Risks

The 2013 Franklin County Risk Assessment is a detailed study of the hazards most likely to impact Franklin County.  Eighteen threats and hazards – dangerous events such as winter storms, floods and terrorist attacks – were analyzed and ranked according to the potential risk they pose.  

No. 1: Tornadoes are nature’s most violent windstorms; even weak tornadoes can cause significant damage and fatalities.  A tornado is defined as a violently rotating column of air, often visible as a funnel cloud, in contact with both the ground and the cloud base. Franklin County experienced 26 tornadoes from 1954 through 2008, all of which were rated F3 (i.e., EF3) and under.  F4 tornadoes have occurred in other parts of Ohio and neighboring states.  Only one F5 tornado has been reported and that was in the southernmost portions of the State.

No. 2: Dam Failure is a catastrophic mishap characterized by the sudden, rapid and uncontrolled release of impounded water. Dam failure can occur with little or no warning and may occur for a number of reasons including: overtopping, seepage (i.e., water percolating through the dam and its foundation) and structural failure due to earthquakes, slope instability, faulty construction, etc.  Two dams serving Franklin County are on the OEMA’s list of the ten most potentially hazardous dams in the state.

No. 3: Flooding is basically the accumulation of water in too little time in too small a place.  From 1999 to 2008, Franklin County received as many as 10 flood warnings in a single year.  Flooding is the No. 1 severe weather related killer in the U.S.  A number of mitigation measures have been implemented since 1913.  During that year, approximately 100 people died in Columbus when the Scioto River reached record levels and poured 9 to 17 feet of water through neighborhoods.

No. 4: WMD Terrorist Incident refers to the detonation of an improvised explosive device (IED); release of a biological, chemical or radioactive agent; or detonation of an improvised nuclear device (IND) within an area that will produce the desired effects (e.g., casualties, fatalities, property damage, etc.).  Franklin County is home to many sporting, entertainment and political venues that attract a large number of people into a relatively confined area which could be viewed as a lucrative target by would-be terrorists.   

No. 5:  Cyber-Terrorism typically involves threats that are directed at data storage sites or at software applications that control and operate critical infrastructure such as a water treatment plant or the power grid.  Cyber-attacks have the capacity to have far-ranging and cascading negative consequences within the County.  Cyber threats are becoming more sophisticated, numerous and targeted, while the explosion of new Internet-connected devices will further increase the private and public sector’s vulnerability to a cyber-attack.  Ohio is taking a proactive stance on cyber security and has developed an action plan for dealing with cyber security threats within the State. 

No. 6: Infectious Diseases are illnesses caused by the entrance into the body of harmful microbial organisms which grow and multiply.  The diseases of most concern to the health and welfare of communities are those that are communicable; that is, those caused by microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses and parasites able to be transmitted from one person, animal or organism to another.  Franklin County residents may be exposed to many common infectious diseases, such as seasonal flu, as well as emerging diseases such as the H1N1 Influenza.

No. 7: Severe Winter Weather includes snow, ice and extreme cold.  Winter storms are events in which the dominant varieties of precipitation are those that occur only at cold temperatures. There were reports of 32 snow and ice events for Franklin County from January 1994 through March 2009, with five deaths, eight injuries and more than $16 million in damages.

No. 8: Hazardous Materials Incident is the unintentional release of a hazardous material from its container or package in a sufficient concentration to pose a threat. Hazardous materials may be explosive, flammable, combustible, corrosive, reactive, poisonous, biological or radioactive as well as solid, liquid or gaseous.  In 2012, Franklin County had 672 facilities required to report their hazardous materials inventory and more than 200 spills were reported to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

No. 9: Transportation Accident – Aircraft is an occurrence associated with the operation of an aircraft and a possible crash site within Franklin County.  Franklin County has four operational airports, all located in densely populated areas.  There have been only two reported air crashes in the County.

No. 10: Severe Summer Weather includes thunderstorms, hail, lightning and damaging wind.  All four can occur in one storm system causing more extensive damage than each hazard would have alone.  Based on data from 1999 to 2008, Franklin County can undergo as many as 15 severe thunderstorm warnings each year.

No. 11: Utility Interruptions or Failures may involve electrical power, natural gas, public water or communications systems.  These systems are vulnerable to natural hazards as well as human-caused and technologically caused disruptions.  Franklin County has experienced interruptions and failures of various kinds; remnant winds of Hurricane Ike in 2008, for example, caused over one-third of the County to lose power.

No. 12: Civil Disturbance is the planned or random unrest or disturbance of ordinary community life by persons choosing to ignore laws, often to bring attention to a cause, concern or agenda.  Franklin County has seen many types of civil disturbances through the years, from prison riots to university campus disturbances to political rallies.

No. 13: Lone-Wolf Terrorist Act refers to an independent act of a single individual directed at the public or an institution for the purposes of making a statement or gaining notoriety.  Lone-wolf attacks are often difficult for law enforcement to intercept because the perpetrator works alone and evades surveillance as he/she often plans the attack without the assistance of others.  In November 2003, Nuradin M. Abdi plotted to bomb a Columbus shopping mall.  In June 2008, Christopher Paul (aka Abdul Malek) was arrested in Ohio and pleaded guilty to conspiring to blow up targets in the U.S. and Europe.  

No. 14: Air and Water Pollution/Contamination is the contamination of water, land or the air by substances that can adversely impact the environment and human health. Franklin County is subject to point and nonpoint water pollution of streams, has experienced high-levels of ozone in the air at ground level ozone and has a number of current or former industrial sites that have levels of contaminated soil. 

No. 15: Extreme Heat events are prolonged periods of excessively hot weather which may be accompanied by high humidity. There were three heat-related deaths in Franklin County reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from 2000 to 2005. Extreme heat is the number one severe weather related killer in the U.S.

No. 16: Drought is a prolonged period of abnormally dry weather where the lack of sufficient precipitation causes a serious hydrologic imbalance with economic and/or social consequences.  Franklin County is primarily impacted by drought relating to shortages in the water supply as well as occasionally due to a decrease in overall water quality. A particular point of interest is that drought has greatly impacted the 24% of the County which is primarily used for crop production or as pastureland.

No. 17: Invasive Species include any species that are not native to an ecosystem and whose introduction causes or is likely to cause harm to the economy, environment or human health.  An increasing threat of exotic diseases, such as the dangerous West Nile virus, exists because of increased transportation and encroachment of humans into previously remote ecosystems. Two events that have caused substantial economic and environmental damage in Ohio are the introduction of zebra mussels into waterways causing waterline pipelines to foul and the incursion of the emerald ash borer responsible for killing ash trees across the state. 

No. 18: Earthquakes are caused by a sudden movement of the earth's crust caused by the release of stress accumulated along geologic faults or by volcanic activity.   Franklin County is not located on a fault line, nor have any epicenters been located here.  Although earthquakes occurring in other areas have been felt in Franklin County, no damage has been reported within the county.