When Ed Rock made the decision to place Kosciusko County under a “Travel Watch” early Tuesday, there was some backlash on the county office of emergency management’s Facebook page. People wondered why it wasn’t a warning.

Rock, Kosciusko County Emergency Management director, offered an explanation, and it has nothing to do with the closing of schools or businesses. Instead, it has everything to do with the ability of first responders to get where they need to go in an emergency.

“Basically, what it boils down to is, Can we get the equipment out there?” Rock said. “If you find yourself in trouble, can we come out and assist you? That’s what it’s really about.

“The whole idea between the orange (a travel watch) and the red (travel warning) is when we can’t ensure we can get there. Even with the ice we had, we could still get there. It’s going to be slower, but we can still get out there.

“When you have blizzards or real heavy snow, we literally can not get to you, and it could end up in an individual’s death, and we really don’t want that.

“Now, can you have an injury or death with the ice? Absolutely. That’s not the issue. The issue is, ‘Can we come and help you?’”

While Rock is authorized by the state’s Department of Homeland Security to activate an advisory or a watch, a warning takes a signed declaration by a county commissioner. When that happens, motorists who find themselves stuck can be cited for being out, but Rock said no one will be pulled over for driving in such conditions.

The last time the county was in a travel warning was about two years ago, when a storm dropped 10 inches or more of snow in some places, throughout the region in the first weekend of February 2017. County highway departments struggled to keep up with the plowing while many were  watching the Super Bowl on television.

By the next morning, roads were passable but the paths on them were narrow, and the closing of schools and businesses likely prevented a number of accidents.

Rock said it’s up to individuals to decide for themselves whether to drive or not, regardless of the level of travel status.

“There were several comments to the effect of, ‘Do I have to put myself at risk to go out there because the county won’t go to a warning?’” he said.

“But those are not my choices. Actually, I’m being as strong as I can by putting it into a watch, and I don’t even do that by myself. It’s in cooperation with county highway and the dispatch center. We have conversations about what level we should be at.

“(Emergency management) is not in the business of telling people or businesses what to do. We are there to give people information so they can make their own choices.

“I spent 30 years in industry before I took this job. Believe me, I understand business. At the same token, that doesn’t play into my decision. It’s all about answering the question about the ability to get there if people have a problem.”

To find a map of travel status for the entire state, click here. Local information can be found on Facebook by clicking here.