The Fayette Tribune, Oak Hill, W.Va.

October 17, 2012

Opportunities still exist for planning emergency efforts

By C.V. Moore
Register-Herald Reporter

FAYETTEVILLE — After this summer’s big storms, the Fayette County Office of Emergency Services expected to see more people take an interest in local emergency planning efforts, but for the most part the pool of participants has not grown.

However, a number of opportunities still exist for people who want to become involved.

At last week’s Local Emergency Planning Committee meeting, old stand-bys from the Health Department, Red Cross, Southern Appalachian Labor School, and other groups gathered to do the ongoing work of planning for disaster.

“If you plan for the worst-case scenario, you can handle anything smaller than that,” says Fayette County Emergency Services Deputy Director Steve Cruikshank.

According to the office’s Director, Teresa White, 50 new invitations were sent out to locals last month to be a part of the group and only two new faces appeared. There are about 20 active members of the group currently.

The mission of the group, which is mandated by state law and in existence since the mid-90s, is to “plan today for a safer tomorrow.”

In the aftermath of destructive storms, some questioned whether enough had been done to prepare for the scenario at hand.

The Fayette County Commission has asked the group to prepare a list of concrete suggestions for improving the county’s emergency response.

Not yet presented to the commission, the list includes the following action items, plus others:

-- Provide support staff to the Emergency Operations Center

-- Provide a complete list of critical infrastructure in Fayette County and each municipality for the Prime Power survey of alternate power sources during extended power outages.

-- Work with the WVDOH or independent fueling stations to develop a memorandum of understanding to provide emergency fuel during locally declared disasters

-- Reduce the impact to citizens due to power loss during severe storm events by investigating the feasibility of backup power for citizens in a special needs registry

-- Reduce the impact of the loss of conventional communications by developing the local radio network and by prompting knowledge and training in this arena. Promote general radio awareness classes.

-- Develop memorandums of understanding with facilities for resources which Fayette County relies on other counties to provide, i.e. oxygen, food delivery truckload, shelter restock supplies, etc.

The group will soon begin revising the county’s emergency operations plan by committee.

White hopes that this year the group can focus on getting the public more involved in their own emergency preparedness.

The Fayetteville Church of God, for example, is joining with other churches in the area to create the Fayetteville Emergency Relief Center that can spring into action during future disasters.

There are also a number of free trainings available throughout the year on subjects ranging from the local government’s role in disaster recovery to debris management. Some are open to all community members, upon completion of a quick application.

Contact the Fayette County OES at 304-574-1610 for more information, or attend the next LEPC meeting on Nov. 14 at 9 a.m. at the Fayetteville Church of God.

—E-mail: cmoore@register-herald.com