By: Michael Campbell, News Editor
Appeared In: September 13, 2017 edition
Creating a kit, signing up for Prince George emergency alerts key for preparedness
PRINCE GEORGE – Roughly this time last week, all eyes were fixed on the Atlantic Ocean and powerful Category 5 hurricane Irma as it spun toward the U.S. Virgin Islands and other Caribbean islands on an uncertain path that saw much of the American Southeastern seaboard under threat from the potent storm.
Fresh in the minds of many in Virginia and across much of the United States were the images of flooding and devastation left just days earlier by Hurricane Harvey, which slammed into the Eastern Texas coast, inundating communities like Houston with feet of water and billions of dollars in damage, which resulted in some heading to stores to get essentials for the possible impacts that forecasters thought might affect parts of Virginia this week in earlier projections.
Ahead of Irma’s eventual landfall in the Florida Keys Sunday, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, following an earlier commitment to provide emergency assistance to those in Texas and Louisiana affected by Hurricane Harvey, declared a state of emergency to help those states impacted by the tropical system that brought winds of over 140 miles an hour across much of the Florida peninsula during the second half of the weekend.
“It is unfortunate that just as our nation has begun the process to repair the catastrophic damage from Hurricane Harvey, that we are faced with another extreme storm,” Governor McAuliffe said in a statement last Friday. “However, if there is one lesson we can take from the tragic events that occurred in Texas, it is that we must redouble our preparation efforts. The order I issued today is intended to both protect our commonwealth and to make sure we have every option at our disposal to help our neighboring states when Irma makes landfall.”
A state of emergency allows the Commonwealth to mobilize resources, including the Virginia National Guard, and pre-position people and equipment to assist in storm response and recovery efforts
Along with his message of support to the millions of people impacted by both of these powerful tropical systems that made landfall in the U.S. only weeks apart, he urged Virginians to ensure they are prepared for when severe weather happens in the area, be it from a tropical system, thunderstorms, or other natural disasters.
That message was echoed by members of the Virginia chapter of the American Red Cross, who were among the first to dispatch their roster of volunteers to the scenes of both Harvey and Irma to help the recovery process begin. In the days leading up to the storm, stores along the projected path saw streams of people coming in to buy those essentials to assemble their own emergency kit.
For the Red Cross, when building that kit, no matter if it is a hurricane, snowstorm, or other natural disasters, it should contain enough supplies to last for about three days. Within that kit, there should be at least a gallon of water for each person in the household for each day along with non-perishable food, and extra batteries, a first aid kit, medications and copies of important documents, such as insurance information and other records.
In addition, items for young children such as diapers, and family members with special medical needs should not be forgotten as part of the kit.
In addition, with many in the region having pets as part of their home unit, the Red Cross recommends making sure your emergency kit takes them into consideration by including sturdy leashes or pet carriers, food and water, bowls, cat litter and pan, photos of you with your pet in case they get lost and various other information, such as feeding schedules, medical conditions, and your pet’s veterinarian.
In the days leading up to Irma’s expected impacts, social media channels were flooded with a mix of accurate and false pieces of information regarding the track of the storm and where it was likely headed, with many of those posts garnering more shares of platforms like Facebook than information being decimated by legitimate sources, such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, and the National Hurricane Center.
When it comes to any form of inclement weather, the Red Cross urges people to make sure they are receiving the latest information from verified sources, such as local media, local and national weather officials, such as NOAA and the National Weather Service, or their own local governments, who may utilize alert systems to inform residents of weather and other emergencies.
In Prince George, the CodeRED Emergency Notification System is a high-speed telephone communication service for emergency notifications that allows the county to notify all or targeted areas of the county in an emergency situation that requires immediate action, along with other vessels for sharing information, such as through the local news media.
“The system is capable of dialing up to 60,000 households per hour,” the county’s website reports. “It will deliver a recorded message to a live person or answering machine/voicemail. It will make three attempts to connect to any number,” noting that messages from the CodeRED emergency notification system will display as 866-419-5000 on a resident or business’ caller ID system and that same number can be dialed to hear the last message repeated.
Those with questions about CodeRED in Prince George County can contact the Prince George Fire, EMS and Emergency Management Office at 804-722-8614. You can sign up for the service at the county’s website at http://princegeorgeva.org.
In addition, there is a CodeRED mobile app available for those with smartphones where you can receive similar alerts directly on your device.
Finally, Prince George’s Local Emergency Planning Committee, or LEPC, makes it its goal to ensure residents are prepared for whatever disaster, be it natural or man-made, that may affect the county and those living and working there.
The group meets on the third Thursday of odd months from January through October, with their next meeting scheduled for September 21, 2017, the county’s Emergency Operations Center at 6520 Laurel Springs Road from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Those interested in learning more about Prince George LEPC’s efforts can contact Emergency Management Deputy Coordinator Donald Hunter at 804-722-8614 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Virginia Chapter of the American Red Cross is still seeking volunteers for their response efforts locally and to affected areas in Texas, Florida and the Southeast.
“If you are interested, head to RedCross.org and fill out an application or you can visit one of our Red Cross offices here in the state,” Jonathan McNamara, Media Relation and Crisis Communications Coordinator for the Richmond American Red Cross chapter said. “Once you fill out that application, we are doing rotating training across the state to get you into our system and make you an asset the organization can use to for responses to hurricanes Irma and Harvey and local operations here in the state.”