Emergency Officials Issue Storm Awareness Tips

Emergency Officials Issue Storm Awareness Tips
Ocean City Emergency Services Joe Theobald is pictured during a recent storm awareness press conference. Photo by Joanne Shriner

OCEAN CITY – With this month marking the start of the 2014 Atlantic hurricane season, officials from Delmarva Power held a news conference in Ocean City this month to remind the public to be prepared to cope with the problems associated with destructive tropical weather that could hit the region.

After one of the quietest hurricane seasons in decades, forecasters with The Weather Channel are predicting a below-average 2014 Atlantic hurricane season. The early outlook calls for 11 named storms, including five hurricanes, two of which are predicted to attain major hurricane status with top winds of 111 mph or higher.

“Even though fewer storms are predicted this year, it only takes one storm to cause property damage and widespread power outages,” Delmarva Power Senior Public Affairs Manager Jim Smith said. “We want to assure our customers that Delmarva Power is committed to an emergency response system that makes safety a priority, restores power as quickly as possible and provides customers with information on how to prepare for and deal with weather-related outages. We’ll be prepared to add more personnel and resources as needed and work with local governments through our Emergency Services Partnership Program to activate emergency procedures.”

Delmarva Power employees prepare for the possibility of storm-related power outages by participating in emergency drills on a regular basis. In addition, the company maintains an adequate supply of essential equipment, such as poles, wires and transformers, and stays in contact with other utilities to quickly arrange for mutual assistance in case of a natural disaster.

“We also believe that preventive maintenance is essential in reducing the potential for service interruptions caused by stormy weather,” Smith said. “We plan to continue to make investments over the next several years to upgrade our electric infrastructure. We’ll also continue regular tree trimming near power lines to help avoid outages that can be caused by trees and limbs that fall during storms.”

Delmarva Power also suggests that customers assemble an emergency kit that can be used at home and, if necessary, taken with them if they are ordered to evacuate. Each kit should include a flashlight, battery powered clock and radio, extra batteries, non-perishable food, manual can opener, bottled water and a list of important phone numbers. All items can be placed into a large cooler which is easy to grab if a person has to leave home quickly.

Delmarva Power also provides a “Storm Preparation Handbook” that can be downloaded from www.delmarva.com or call Customer Care at 800-272-7117 to request a copy via mail.

Smith was joined at the press event by Ocean City Director of Emergency Services Joe Theobald, Worcester County Emergency Services Director Fred Webster, President of Ocean City AARP Chapter 1917 Chris Norris and Chief Animal Control Officer for Worcester County Sue Rantz.

“Hurricane hazards come in many forms, including storm surge, heavy rainfall, inland flooding, high winds, tornadoes and rip currents,” Theobald said. “It’s important to be informed and prepared for these hazards. Also, it’s important to know if you live in an evacuation area and whether your home is vulnerable to storm surge, flooding and wind. Perhaps, most importantly, have a family emergency plan and disaster supply kit, and encourage your friends and other family members to do the same.”

According to Theobald, the Town of Ocean City is currently in the process of simplifying evacuation zones where the island will be broken down into geographical location by flood warning levels.

“Everybody has to be prepared, work with government, listen to government, and when all is said and done we will get through it and be successful,” he said. “The community should know where the evacuation zones are…you will have a better idea if we ask a certain zone to evacuate you will know where you live and you will know what to do.”

Worcester County Emergency Services Director Fred Webster advised the public to pay attention to Emergency Management Office’s advisories whether it is the city, county or state.

“We are a big partnership and at least five days before a storm event we are on conference calls continuously talking of our plans … so keep in mind when we tell you it is time to evacuate that is exactly what it means. It does not mean 10 or 20 hours from now. It means if we tell you it is time to evacuate then it is time to go, so pay attention and heave those warnings,” Webster said.

Norris advised the senior citizen community to have an evacuation plan.

“When it comes to storm preparations, my advice to senior citizens is to listen to the emergency services experts regarding safety advice,” Norris said. “Make sure you fuel your vehicles prior to any storm and if applicable, take care of your pets as best you can. And, by all means, don’t do anything that could jeopardize the safety of you and your family.”

According to Rantz, Hurricane Katrina opened the country’s eyes to a catastrophic oversight that did not include animals in personal and public disaster planning. This caused needless suffering but the recognition has led to many changes. Emergency shelter and transports have changed policies to accept families with their animals. Hurricane Katrina left 300,000 animals killed or without shelter; 6,031 animals were rescued; and only 400 were reunited with their owners.

“The things that you need to do to prepare now are to make sure you have an ID on your pet and microchip your pet. If you get disconnected with your pet, then there will be a reconnection if you have them ID’d,” she said. “You need to keep a photo in your possession whether it is in your car or your wallet of you and your pet. You also need to prepare your animals with their necessities as well as your own; their food, water, medication, pet records, leashes and a carrier that will be able to house them where they can stand, sit, lay and turn around for three to five days.”

Rantz advised there are numerous locations to evacuate to with your pet, such as pet friendly hotels or shelters. The website, www.bringfido.com, will assist in finding pet-friendly accommodations.

“Your pets are going to become very skittish with the winds, lighting and extreme heat and they are much more comfortable being with their owner then being separated from them. We offer shelter in Worcester County at three different locations; Stephen Decatur Middle School, Pocomoke High School and the Animal Control Facility. They are manned and staffed with our department. You are required to bring their items, and allowed are to come and visit within certain hours but the best thing to do is find a place to take your pets,” Rantz said.

In conclusion, Smith reviewed Delmarva Power’s electric restoration process. In the event the system is damaged by severe weather, Delmarva Power repairs equipment, which will restore the largest number of customers first. The sequence is as follows; downed live wires or potentially life-threatening situations and public health and safety facilities without power, next are transmission lines serving thousands of customers, substation equipment, main distribution lines serving large numbers of customers, secondary lines serving neighborhoods, and finally service lines to individual homes and businesses.

“Working in tandem with these folks is our way of preparing for storms and emergency situations. We drill extensively at Delmarva Power and drill with our emergency management partners. That helps us keep us on top of our game for when we get into emergency situations. We want our customers and the general public to be prepared as well, with things like having storm emergency kits up and running,” Smith said.