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Emergency Operations Center activated, prepared

By Staff | Oct 29, 2012

Debbie Lowe, Barbara Miller and Gail Boober man telephones in Jefferson County's Emergency Operations Center Monday afternoon.

CHARLES TOWN The Jefferson County Office of Homeland Security has activated the county’s Emergency Operations Center in Bardane. According to Director Barbara Miller, the EOC began operations at 8 p.m. Sunday night in preparation for Hurricane Sandy.

The Center is staffed with individuals representing every organization from the Board of Education to law enforcement to the hospital and health department. The EOC is in constant communication with all emergency responders, the Department of Highways, law enforcement officers, the American Red Cross and neighboring counties.

According to Miller, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin issued a State of Emergency in West Virginia that went into effect at 12 noon Monday. The decision was made based on forecasts of snow and rain in counties throughout the state as well as high winds associated with the hurricane.

Tomblin advised residents to be prepared for power outages and to stay off the roadways once the high winds begin.

Dr. Sheri Hoff, with the Jefferson County Board of Education, announced from her post at the EOC that Jefferson County Schools will again be closed on Tuesday. All students and staff are to remain home, she said. Hoff went on to explain that as long as the State of Emergency remains in effect no school buses are allowed on the roadways. Hoff said the Board of Education will make announcements regarding potential continued closing of school on a daily basis.

Hoff explained that the automatic email and telephone system will notify parents and employees as decisions are made. She said that 10,685 phone numbers are programmed into the automated system and encouraged all parents to make sure their information is up to date with the school system so that timely messages can be delivered.

The health field including the health department and the hospital were also represented in the EOC manning telephones to keep up to date on coordination of any services that may be required. The county’s health department closed early on Monday and will remain closed Tuesday; however, representative Sandy Hite said that any public health issue could be addressed through the EOC. She, along with Jeff Jeffries of WVUH-East, Jefferson Memorial Hospital, indicated that emergency measures have been taken to secure extra food and water at the hospital for patients and staff.

Jeffries said that often there is a potential surge of patients in a natural disaster and that the hospital is well prepared for any emergency.

Jeff Polczynski, director of the Emergency Communications Center, said that his department is well prepared for emergencies that could arise.

“We have communication with all critical agencies including the Department of Highways, city streets and public safety” he said. “Extra staffing is on hand. This is what we do every day so we are prepared,” Polczynski said.

Polczynski did indicate that citizens should report emergencies using 9-1-1; however, non-emergency concerns should come through the EOC hotline at 304-728-6345. For those experiencing power outages, reports should be made to 1-888-LIGHTSS.

Miller asked for the public’s patience in dealing with emergency situations caused by the storm.

“This is expected to be a long and extended event,” Miller said. “We appreciate the emergency responders who have worked for the last five days in preparation for the worst and for their efforts to come in the next few days.”