By: Michael Campbell, News Editor
Appeared In: September 14, 2017 edition
Creating a kit, signing up for Dinwiddie’s emergency alerts key for preparedness
DINWIDDIE – 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 Dinwiddie, has used its CodeRED notification system for several years, which allows county officials to quickly deliver important messages to citizens. To date, the system has been used to help locate missing persons, announce water meter changes and alert citizens to weather events.
“No one should automatically assume their phone number is in the system.” Dennis Hale, Fire Chief and Emergency Management Coordinator said. “With the proliferation of cellular technology and VoIP phones, many citizens and businesses no longer have classic landline telephones. This makes it difficult for the County to maintain the database within the CodeRED system. We rely on citizens and businesses to enter their information into the system.”
In a statement late last month, county officials encouraged citizens and businesses to log into the Dinwiddie County website, http://dinwiddieva.us, and click the link to “CodeRED” or “Emergency Notification”. From there, citizens will be able to enter information. CodeRED subscribers are able to specify the type of alerts they wish to receive and the manner in which they prefer to receive them.
“Even if you believe your information is already in the system, it is a good idea to log-in to verify and make updates,” Hall suggested. “The system recognizes duplicate information and will not send multiple notifications to the same contact.”
The county is planning a test of their CodeRED system on Sept. 27 at 2 p.m.
According to Hale, “The test will serve several purposes. It will allow citizens to verify that the system contacts them, it will allow the County to test the effectiveness of the system during a high volume usage period, and the test will help to verify databases.”
Those without Internet access, or who have questions may call Dinwiddie County Fire & EMS at 804-469-5388, Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., to supply their information by phone.
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.”