OCEAN CITY — Wednesday marked the beginning of this year’s hurricane season, and Ocean City officials are warning area residents to start preparing now.
“The public is part of the emergency management service,” said Joe Theobald, Ocean City Emergency Services Director, at a press conference held Wednesday. “We’re trying to stress preparation.”
According to information distributed by Delmarva Power officials, who coupled with Ocean City and other emergency service providers in the area to raise public awareness, this year will likely be an above-average hurricane season. Up to 18 named storms are being predicted, with six to 10 expected to be hurricanes with another three to six possibly becoming major hurricanes.
Theobald was confident that no matter how bad the weather, however, emergency services would do their job.
“Whatever happens, we can get through,” he said.
But officials cautioned residents not to rely solely on emergency services. Matt Likovich, spokesman for Delmarva Power, advises everyone in the area to put together an emergency kit with items like food, water, a flashlight, a radio and a first aid kit.
“Don’t wait until the storm starts howling … It doesn’t take long to put something like this together,” said Likovich of a standard kit, which he recommended placing in a cooler. “You never know. You’ve got to be prepared.”
Delmarva Power provides a “Weathering the Storm” brochure on its website, delmarva.com, with additional information about preparedness kits.
As far as keeping the power going during storm season, Likovich asserted that Delmarva Power trains and prepares rigorously every year in anticipation of hurricanes.
“When storms threaten our service territory, we increase our staffing levels, adjust resources as needed and work with local governments through our Emergency Services Partnership Program to activate emergency procedures,” he said.
Likovich revealed that his company invests about $120 million every year to upgrade electronic equipment, $23 million to install new equipment and $9 million just in tree trimming.
“Such regular vegetation management helps avoid outages that can be caused by limbs and trees that fall during storms,” he explained.
Likovich also clarified the priority system of reactivation if a storm does happen to knock out power. Public safety concerns are always dealt with first, said Likovich, whether that means getting power back to a hospital or turning off a downed power line. After that, major transmission lines, substations and main distribution lines are targeted next, followed by neighborhood lines and individual lines to homes and businesses.
“That’s our battle plan when it comes to restoration,” said Likovich.
While he admitted that this might be a disappointing set up for those living in rural areas, since they would get power back last, he said that Delmarva Power would work as quickly as they could but couldn’t “be everywhere at once” and public safety had to come before convenience.
“Sometimes it’s several hours and sometimes it’s several days,” he admitted, advising those without power to remain calm and to remember that it will come back on as soon as possible.
“As people are busy making summer plans to enjoy the warm weather and beaches, preparing for a hurricane often ranks low on the list of priorities,” said Joe Thomas, the Emergency Operations Director for Sussex County. “That is why it is important to prepare now instead of waiting for a storm to affect the area.”
Thomas pointed out that just because there was a state line “it doesn’t mean that’s where the storm stops.” He urged residents all along Delmarva to start preparing kits and thinking about a good plan for if severe weather threatens the area. Thomas asserted that Sussex County was ready to work with neighboring communities and other emergency service providers if a hurricane strikes.
Troy McCabe, Emergency Services Director for the Lower Shore Chapter of the American Red Cross, promised that his agency would also be prepared. “There’s a team and there’s a plan,” he said.
McCabe explained that the main focus of the Red Cross in a disaster situation would be to get emergency shelters up and running. “We are ready to play our role when necessary,” he said.
Theobald also warned that people living in coastal areas had to be extra careful with hurricane season every year.
“The U.S. Census Bureau reports that 53 percent of this country’s population lives in coastal areas like Ocean City…so being properly prepared to deal with severe weather is very important when it comes to public safety,” said Theobald. “Ocean City has an emergency plan in place to protect the public and we urge our citizens to be ready when bad weather strikes.”