Hillsboro Library Fiends Celebrate Earth Day with Serious Discussions
The Hillsboro Library Friends held an Open Forum on Community Preparedness and Disaster Management in Pocahontas County at the library on Earth Day, April 22, 2023. Unfortunately, Beth Little, who had organized the program, was unable to attend due to a recent knee injury. Following a reception at 5:00 pm, the program began at 6:00, with Michael M. Barrick as the guest speaker.
Barrick introduced himself. He said he was born in Clarksburg WV, graduated from Glenville State College and holds a postgraduate Certificate in Community Preparedness and Emergency Management from the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. He said that perhaps his views on life, activism and disasters were formed when, at the age of 18, his and his father’s home in Clarksburg was seized by the city under the legal principle of Eminent Domain because the city needed to expand a highway. He describes himself as a “liberaltarian,” which he doesn’t fully define.
Barrick talked about his book “Fractured Sanctuary” which was published in 2014 and tells the story of how reluctant citizens became activists and stood up against what he defines as the “evil” energy company Dominion Power when Dominion supported natural gas fracking and attempted to build a natural gas pipeline through the West Virginia hills and karst terrain. Barrick pointed out how having a common cause and a common enemy -Dominion Power- actually brought many non-profit environmentalist organizations, who had formerly competed with one another, together as friends. He said their success against the Dominion pipeline serves as a positive example for organizations or communities who are facing other emergency crises.
Barrick asked the about 20 attendees about how emergency preparedness to disasters is organized here in the county. John Leyzorek, a member of the Pocahontas County Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) gave a brief description of the duties of that committee. He said the original mission of LEPC’s across West Virginia was only to handle chemical spillage incidents, however their mission has now expanded to include planning for all types of disasters. Leyzorek said the main principle guiding local emergency preparedness is that the local community must be prepared to be self-sustaining for the first 96 hours after a major disaster strikes, since outside help is not likely to arrive any sooner than that.
There was a short discussion about the Emergency Medical Service crisis in the county. It has been caused by a shortage of EMS trained volunteers to respond on ambulances. It was pointed out that West Virginia as a whole has lost about 50 EMS units by 2022, so this is really a state-wide problem, causing the state legislature to consider additional funding for EMS responders.
Ann Groves pointed out that many people may not realize that the Hillsboro Volunteer EMS almost lost its state charter four years ago.
Barrick pointed out that people who choose to live in a very beautiful rural area such as Pocahontas County, did so knowing that their other choice was live somewhere which is not rural or beautiful, but which has good medical care.