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Jefferson County Emergency Operations Plan explained during quarterly meeting

By Staff | Aug 2, 2019

Roy McCallister, threat preparedness/response officer for the West Virginia Department of Agriculture, addresses attendees at the Jefferson County Homeland Security and Emergency Management quarterly partnership meeting. Toni Milbourne

CHARLES TOWN — Attendees at the quarterly partnership meeting of the Jefferson County Homeland Security and Emergency Management department on Friday, learned about the Emergency Support Function 11 portion of the county’s Emergency Operations Plan.

Jefferson County is the only county in the state to have something like the ESF 11, with a purpose of outlining protocols to help assist with emergencies within the agricultural community, including those affecting the integrity of plants and animals, whether it be from contagious disease, pests that cause economic hardship or emergencies requiring evacuation and sheltering of household pets and/or farm animals.

Luncheon guest speaker was Roy McCallister, the threat preparedness/response officer for the West Virginia Department of Agriculture. McCallister spoke about disasters around the state, including the heavy flooding that brought much of the state to a standstill in 2016.

“FEMA had never sent anyone prior to that to deal with animals in disasters,” McCallister said. “These floods led to a new program to help develop animal shelters for those animals in disasters.”

According to McCallister, damage affecting agriculture and farms, while not necessarily looked at by FEMA when judging the results of a disaster, should be assessed and reported to the United States Department of Agriculture, so that any available assistance can be given to farmers and property owners.

“We need all numbers reported, to get a true picture of damages during a disaster,” McCallister said. “While individual cases of damage may not be the big picture, it can be big to the individual farmer.”

The county’s ESF 11 plan incorporates four separate functions, including Agricultural Assistance, Animal and Plant Disease and Pet Response, Safety of Household Pets and Protection of Natural, Cultural and Historic Resources. Developed within the plan are multiple resources available to farm and animal owners to assist them in times of disaster. Partners include the Jefferson County Fair Association, which could offer the fairgrounds as a temporary farm animal holding area.

Additional partnering agencies include the Jefferson County Animal Control, Briggs Animal Adoption Center, Jefferson County Animal Welfare Society, the West Virginia Farm Bureau and the West Virginia University Experimental Farm.

An animal census showed the county’s estimated animal populations are approximately 12,152 dogs, 13,284 cats, 10,426 cattle, 1,747 horses, 129 honeybee colonies, 5,233 chickens and 937 goats. These numbers are all estimated based on information from the American Veterinary Medical Association.

The Animals in Disaster Plan, which is separate from the ESF 11 portion of the operations plan, provides information on assistance with animal rescue, transportation and sheltering, during a disaster.

JCHSEM Director Steve Allen commended all of the organizations within the county that have committed to be part of the ESF 11 team.

“We have looked at what affects the citizens and the community,” Allen said. “We will continue to work on it.”