By Wendy Holdren
Emergency officials in both the City of Beckley and Raleigh County agree that our area is well-prepared in case of emergency, but there is always room for improvement.
“In general, I’d say we are prepared,” said Kevin Taylor, director of Emergency Services for the City of Beckley. “I think collectively we’ve made some great strides over the past few months and years, especially in light of all the events we’ve endured. I don’t think anyone could say we’ve got it all figured out, but I think we are overall prepared.”
Taylor has worked over the past months to form Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT) in Beckley, which he said can be of great benefit.
“The greatest asset of the CERT team is channeling and bringing together the interest of concerned citizens and community members who want to be a part of an effort, and to do so in a trained and coordinated manner.”
Although the Beckley CERT team had not yet been formed during the derecho last summer, Taylor said Bridgeport suffered from the same power outages as our region. Communication efforts were broken down, but Taylor said the robust Bridgeport CERT team printed out fliers with pertinent information and team members went out into the communities to update residents.
“It may sound rudimentary, but that was the only source of information they had going at the time and those citizens were extremely appreciative. That’s just one example of how they can be utilized.”
Marty Agee, director of Raleigh County Emergency Operations Center, said her department also trains CERT teams in communities outside Beckley.
She said community training can prove especially beneficial if emergency services are unable to get to an area immediately.
“It’s a very positive thing. We want the communities to become the responders, so they can better understand the emergency response process.”
Agee said it is also helpful if local businesses have emergency training.
After last summer’s series of storms, the massive snowstorm that hit in October, as well as the most recent traffic accident Thursday on I-77, Taylor said the most important lesson that has been learned is that everyone on an individual basis needs to be more prepared.
“I know we harp on that all the time,” Taylor said. “However, when such an event occurs, emergency services and resources are stretched as far as they can go.”
He said people want and expect immediate response and help and sometimes, that simply is not an option.
“We’re all affected by the same event. If each individual, each family, each congregation, each neighborhood plans now, that’s going to tax the overall system much less.”
Agee said she would also like to encourage everyone to stay up to date during an emergency situation by signing up for updates and checking social media networks.
“Calling 911 to find out if a road is blocked is not the thing to do,” she said. “We try to keep the media aware as best we can to keep our people posted.”
She also added that Raleigh County has a lot of experience with flooding and snowstorms, but some areas still need work, like with an incident such as the I-77 wreck Thursday.
“We all need to be a little more aware that something like that can happen in the blink of an eye.”
She commended her telecommunications team for handling the situation so well Thursday because many other accidents were caused from the diversion of traffic and congestion issues.
For more information about Beckley CERT classes, contact Kevin Taylor at 304-256-0034. For CERT classes in Raleigh County, call 304-255-0911.
To sign up for emergency updates, visit www.raleigh911.org, or check out Beckley Ready’s Facebook and Twitter pages for the latest.
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