StormReady Relationship; PE-Farmville Preparing To Prepare Together

Published 2:51 pm Tuesday, April 14, 2015

FARMVILLE — Prince Edward County and the Town of Farmville are preparing to weather any storm together.

And, if the relationship encounters hazards, the joint Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) the two localities are moving toward will provide a mutual, coordinated response to that as well.

During a joint meeting last month the board of supervisors and town council signaled their openness to partner in the National Weather Service’s (NWS) StormReady Community program, in addition to forming the joint LEPC.

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Discussions between Town Manager Gerald Spates, County Administrator Wade Bartlett and Assistant County Administrator Sarah Puckett preceded the joint meeting and it was Puckett who briefed the two governing bodies on both proposals.

Neither project is expected to incur any out-of-pocket expense—other than for weather band radios—requiring staff time only, according to Puckett, who framed the projects as “opportunities for the Town and the County to work together.”

Both jurisdictions have their own LEPC, the committees called for across the nation in the wake of the Bhopal, India disaster in 1984 that saw more then half a million people exposed to the methyl isocyanate gas and other chemicals; thousands were killed and more than 500,000 injured.

The LEPCs primarily revolve around how communities track and provide information to their citizens about chemical hazards, Puckett told them.

But, she said, “there are opportunities to expand that program and make your LEPCs what’s considered all hazards. So it’s not just chemical hazards, it’s every hazard your community may face.”

The joint LEPC would easily follow the contours of a landscape that already sees a great deal of cooperation and mutual aid among emergency responders and law enforcement officers, she noted.

“Our law enforcement agencies probably respond to mutual aid requests, if not daily, at least weekly,” Puckett said. “And our fire and EMS agencies cross political jurisdictional boundaries without even giving them a thought.

“So we believe that the creation of a joint Farmville-Prince Edward LEPC will improve the coordination, communication, planning and response for the citizens of Prince Edward County and the Town of Farmville in the event there was an incident,” Puckett told the two governing bodies.

This past winter saw the Town and County coordinate shelter information in response to snow and severe cold, so those seeds have already been sown.

“Doing the joint LEPC will further enhance the opportunity for us to better coordinate emergency response,” Puckett said.

The StormReady Community program is based on the same foundation and mission.

“Ninety-five percent of this program is, again, packaging resources that our community already has in a way that better coordinates those resources,” she pointed out.

The NWS program is targeted at the fact that nearly 90 percent of all presidentially declared disasters in the US are weather-related, killing approximately 500 people annually and creating nearly $14 billion in damage.

“So, to help communities better prepare and mitigate the effects of extreme weather-related events, the National Weather Service has created this program called the StormReady Community,” Puckett said.

The only likely expense is the required weather band radios that are required for locations such as the courthouse, the 911 centers and schools.

Puckett said the both Longwood University and Hampden-Sydney College are interested in participating with the County and Town in the StormReady Community program.

The NWS promotes these advantages:

Improved timeliness and effectiveness of hazardous weather warnings for the public.

Detailed and clear recommendations that will help local emergency managers establish and improve effective hazardous weather operations.

Help ensure communities are prepared for other civil emergencies.

“From tornadoes to tsunamis, floods to winter storms, and wildfires to hurricanes, your community will be better prepared knowing they have the best possible chance of being warned before a weather disaster strikes,” the NWS states in printed material Puckett provided to supervisors and council members.

Both the joint LEPC and the StormReady Community program require formal action to participate.

“From town council’s side,” Mayor David E. Whitus told Puckett, “if you and Gerry and Wade would get together and bring us something it would be great.”

Board chairman Howard Simpson echoed that request for the board of supervisors.