Pocahontas emergency committee being reactivated

Marlinton, W.Va. –

Pocahontas County Emergency Management Services Director Shawn Dunbrack hosted a public meeting Tuesday evening to discuss reactivation of a local emergency planning committee, or LEPC. The director said the June 29 windstorm proved the need for an LEPC.

Dunbrack, who was appointed EMS director four days after the storm hit, describes problems encountered during the emergency response.

“There was an awful lot of weaknesses that we saw,” he said. “The main one being the lack of clear leadership. No one knew who was supposed to do what. No one knew who was in charge. So, no one stepped up and said, ‘hey, I’m the one that’s going to take responsibility. I’m the one who’s going to get this, this and this done.’ It wasn’t there.

“There was a lack of knowledge of the county disaster plan. Just those on the local emergency planning committee knew that there was one.

“Another weakness during the last srtorm was communication. We didn’t communicate well with the public and we couldn’t communicate with those of you who are responders because we lost our radio communication. We need to do better and find better ways to communicate with the public. And, of course, a lack of designated shelters.”

The director says the county did some things well.

“Our volunteer base in each community – not only our fire departments and rescue squads – the people who just stepped up and said, ‘hey, I’ll go deliver ice or deliver food or knock on doors, whatever you need me to do,'” he said. “The volunteers really stepped up fantastically in this disaster and we need to maintain that. Also, our ability as a county to survive the first few days without any support. We have to be able to maintain ourselves for the first few days and we did that pretty well.”

The director requested generators in order to use schools as shelters.

“We have requested some permanent whole building generators for every school in Pocahontas County,” he said. “To be placed there at the school, wired in, power goes off, the generator automatically kicks on. That’s been requested through the State Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.”

Private businesses stepped up to provide valuable resources.

“The other thing that we did very well with, that I think we need to build on, as well, was our partnership with private businesses,” Dunbrack said. “But, you know, the Observatory did a great job of letting us have a food facility up there, giving us personnel, anything we needed there. And Snowshoe was also great. They were great about letting us know that they had anything we wanted. They had generators, different things that we could request. Other things like Pretty Penny Cafe, Pocahontas Home Medical, who delivered oxygen to people who weren’t even their own customers. Henry’s Quick Stop – any number of convenience stores that were just donating items or trying to stay open as best as they could to give out things to help everybody.”

Anyssa Core, with the West Virginia Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, describes the purpose of an LEPC.

“The purpose of an LEPC – part of it is to maintain a broad-based membership from the community to ensure development of and maintenance of an effective emergency plan to respond to hazardous materials and emergencies,” she said. “And also, LEPC’s across the state have broadened their focus to include the all-hazards approach, in things like the derecho, flooding and that sort of thing. I know that’s common here. And LEPC’s have to work hand-in hand with the Emergency Management Agency and the County Commission.”

Dunbrack describes the personnel needed for an LEPC.

“These are the people that we need and I think we’re all here in the room tonight,” he said. “We have to have these type people. We have to have an elected state or local official. Emergency management – that’s me. Fire service – we’ve got several people from fire service here tonight. EMS and rescue squad. Local health department. Those folks are here tonight. Law enforcement. People from transportation. Broadcast and print media – we have both of those here tonight. Community groups and other community representatives as we deem necessary.”

The director said the first order of business would be updating the county emergency operations plan, which was published in 1998.

Anyone interested in serving on the local emergency planning committee should submit a letter of interest to the Pocahontas County Commission, 900 10th Ave., Marlinton 24954.

Story By

Heather Niday

Heather is our Program Director and Traffic Manager. She started with Allegheny Mountain Radio as a volunteer deejay. She then joined the AMR staff in February of 2007. Heather grew up in the Richmond, Virginia, area and now lives in Arbovale, West Virginia with her husband Chuck. Heather is a wonderful flute player, and choir director for Arbovale UMC. You can hear Heather along with Chuck on Tuesday nights from 6 to 8pm as they host two hours of jazz on Something Different.

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