Pocahontas LEPC appoints officers, hears from the Red Cross
New officers were appointed during a well attended meeting of the Pocahontas County Local Emergency Planning Committee on Sept 17th. Chairman John Leyzorek graciously yielded the position to Michael O’Brien, Director of Pocahontas County Homeland Security and Emergency Management. The person voted on by the LEPC members to the Vice-Chair position was not in attendance, and at press time, had not confirmed that they had accepted the position. Hillsboro Mayor Anne Walker will remain as the Secretary-Treasurer.
Other member appointments were also made to the committee. Town Mayors Sam Felton and Kenny Lehman, of Marlinton and Durbin respectively, were approved as members, as well as Michael O’Brien, Mike Holstine, and Herbie Barlow. Other residents representing other agencies in the county were also considered and their appointments will be discussed further at the next meeting in November. The board will also consider appointment of a PIO or public information officer at the November meeting.
Stephanie Meadows, Executive Director for the American Red Cross in southeast West Virginia, talked about the Red Cross and what they provide. The southeast West Virginia chapter is based in Beckley and includes Pocahontas County. She explained that this chapter is a part of a larger multi-state group.
“We’re then part of the Crossroads division which includes Indiana, Michigan, Kentucky, West Virginia and Ohio,” said Meadows. “And the purpose of those divisions is that we draw resources from those other states and that’s supplies and volunteers.”
The Crossroads group in turn is part of the national Red Cross organization. She said her group is one of four in the state, with 23 staff members spread across the four organizations. With such limited staff, they are very dependent on volunteers.
“So what we are really focused on doing on a local level is we have a local board and we focus on disaster services and preparedness and service to armed forces,” she said. “The first thing that we do is we build partnerships in the community with groups such as yours. We work with offices of emergency management so that when a disaster strikes Red Cross can be a partner and can play a role.”
Meadows said they have a goal this year to install 5000 smoke alarms in homes and working with Laura Young with the Family Resource Network to achieve that goal.
She also introduced David Neal who is the local Disaster Services specialist for this Red Cross chapter. His role is to work with the local emergency management to coordinate what may be needed in the wake of a disaster. Most often, that means working with a family who may lost their home and possessions in a fire. That relief may even include help with funeral expenses.
Neal said in his position he also works closely with county emergency management to establish emergency shelters and make sure they are not only appropriately stocked with supplies, such as food, cots, blankets, and hygiene facilities, but also that there is a plan in place for managing staff and volunteers to man the shelter around the clock for as long as it’s needed. He said there are four basic levels of participation between the county and the Red Cross, based on what the county wants.
“One is full shelter management where you provide the facilities and everything that goes with it, and the Red Cross brings in shelter managers and staff and basically just take over the operations of it,” said Neal. “We kind of gear down from that point where we do an assisted management; we gear down even further from that where we can do what you need to do basically at request, and the last level is ‘you bring us what we need, when we need it’.”
He also stressed that the Red Cross can’t provide shelter or supplies for pets in a disaster, but will offer referrals to those services in the area if possible. The next meeting of the Pocahontas County Local Emergency Planning Committee will be November 19th.
Contact information for the Southeast West Virginia chapter of the American Red Cross
Stephanie Meadows – Executive Director, Southeast West Virginia Chapter
David Neal – Disaster Program Manager, Southeast West Virginia Chapter