An Emergency Manager’s dream come true…

September 5, 2011 § 1 Comment

…Always seems to be John Q. Public’s nightmare.  This has been one crazy and hectic 10 days in my area. On August 23, a 5. 8 earthquake occurred just outside of Mineral, Virginia. The damage was signficant in the immediate area, and the shaking felt from Canada to Georgia, Ohio to New York.  We continue to experience aftershocks. The funny part is that people were shocked that Virginia would have an earthquake.  Guess they forget the fault line in that area, that has caused earthquakes previously.  Four days after the initial earthquake, as people are beginning to feel a bit more comfortable, Hurricane Irene made landfall in North Carolina and worked her way up the entire East Coast, leaving behind devastation, damage, and despair.

I found myself without power for five days, and a portion of people in my area are still waiting to get their power back. For days before the storm the weather forecasters couldn’t agree on which way the storm was going to go and while it wasn’t as strong as anticipated, it took direct aim at the Outer Banks. Oddly enough, the most signficant damage in Virginia was not on the coast, but in a county just 10 minutes from my own front door.

After taking stock of the impact to my property (a few trees and two power lines), I was able to work with the State EOC and ensure other localities had the resources necessary to begin the recovery phase. Thankfully, now 8 days from the initial impact, we are down to less than 10,000 customers without power, all shelters closed, most EOCs closed, and most of our EMS agencies are back to running under normal operations. A few things have stood out over the past week though, that I want to mention here, and will probably hit on some a bit more in depth in later posts.  Feel free to add your two cents:

1.  The irony of having Hurricane Preparedness Month in September is that we are getting hurricanes earlier and earlier, which means by the time people are reminded of what to do to be prepared, it’s probably already too late. With hurricane season extending well outside the June to November timeframe, maybe we as EMS providers/Emergency Managers need to put a bigger focus on making sure people consider the threat of catastrophic weather events all year round

2.  While I understand that disaster response can impact your regular shift cycles, work/rest cycles are still a MAJOR consideration, especially considering the fact that work conditions are even worse than normal daily operations. Working your crews for days at a time without a break from the station, or bringing in OT guys and letting them sleep through the night while other crews bust their ass, is NOT a smart decision.

3.  Prepare your own families for the impact of the storms. Just as much as we want the citizens to be prepared, we should ensure our families are prepared. If you have a generator or additional power source, make sure they know how to use it. Make sure any medical, nutritional, and even emotional needs are handled so that you can focus on the incident and not worry TOO much about what is happening at home.

Here are a few pictures of the devastation in my state:

Until next time!

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