Public officials from across Tucker County met this week to discuss how the county was affected by Superstorm Sandy and its aftermath.
Officials met Tuesday evening at the Thomas Mt. Top Senior Citizens Center for the After Action Review and to look at the county's Improvement Plan.
Tiffany Auvil and Darla Stemple, from the Tucker County Office of Emergency Management, led the event by guiding officials through the agenda, a breakdown of categories which are part of the Improvement Plan. Suggestions taken at the meeting were catalogued and will be added to a draft of the plan that can be further edited by all emergency agencies.
The Inter-Mountain photo
by Casey Houser
Darla Stemple, Tucker County Office of Emergency Management director, speaks at the After Action Review meeting Thursday about the county’s Superstorm Sandy recovery efforts.
Stemple commented on the readiness of emergency programs following Superstorm Sandy.
"We are used to snow and we are used to wind. But I don't know if we're used to 40 inches all at once and our trees falling over," she said.
Stemple remarked that emergency efforts ran more smoothly after Sandy than in June when a derecho took out power across much of West Virginia.
Following her opening remarks, Auvil began discussing the first Improvement Plan item, public information and warning.
Stemple said she was impressed with the county's use of shelters.
"We did have three shelters up and running," she said. "Those that took them on did an excellent job."
Discussing future improvements to public warning, officials considered adding Oakland, Md. to the list of emergency radio stations.
In addition, Auvil said training in the use of AM transmitters is lacking.
"We don't have enough people who know how to set up the AM transmitters," she said, before suggesting that more training be provided to all emergency departments in the county.
Stemple concluded the public information and warning portion of the evening by saying that the E-911 Facebook page rose from 300 to 1,000 likes during the storm.
"We are going to try to keep that page growing," she said.
Critical transportation was discussed by John Mutscheller of Frontier Communications, Lynda Gray of the Tucker County EMS and Robert Cooper of the Tucker County DOH.
Mutscheller talked about Davis being the "brain" of their communications systems in the county.
He said efforts will be made to better secure the system so that Davis will not be a single point of failure for Tucker. Currently, he said it's possible for a problem in Davis to remove communications for the entire area.
Gray was vocal about issues of verbal communication between local and outside hospitals. She said that coordination between local EMS and Morgantown, for instance, can be improved.
Attempting to procure medications for individuals was difficult, she said.
Cooper was positive in discussing help that was received from local citizens and emergency groups outside Tucker County during the storm.
"The best thing that happened is all the people who came in to help us," he said, mentioning generators being donated from other counties and neighbors helping neighbors.
Gray was also positive about the efforts of local fire departments while discussing mass search and rescue initiatives.
"All the fire departments checked on all the houses they could get to and even those they couldn't get to," she said. "They were very aware of their areas."
Covering the issue of public and private resources and services, Stemple mentioned the difficulty in obtaining generators from state agencies.
"We did not receive any generators requested from the state," Stemple said.
Requests through the state include a lot of paperwork and an exact knowledge of what type and size generator is needed, she said. All told, it can take up to five years to get a generator.
During the storm, Stemple said, other counties pitched in and delivered generators to the county.
In attendance were officials from the state Division of Homeland Security and Emergency, the Davis, Thomas and Canaan Valley volunteer fire departments, the state Department of Highways, the Tucker County Local Emergency Planning Commission, amateur radio services, Hamrick Public Service District, Frontier Communications, the Town of Hambleton, the City of Thomas and the Tucker County Commission.
Following the After Action meeting, groups that intended to request reimbursement of funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency stayed as other groups departed for the evening.
Auvil discussed with the groups what they could expect while dealing with FEMA.
She said they would reimburse certain costs, materials and damage to facilities. Fuel, Auvil said, is not reimbursed as an individual unit - instead, it's measured in hours, such as a gas generator being run for 10 hours.
Also, there is a $1,000 minimum of incurred costs before FEMA will consider reimbursement.
Auvil said officials would need to submit forms both to the state and to FEMA. After requests have been received, she said FEMA will set up a time to meet with each group individually.
The FEMA project coordinator will contact each group as their application for reimbursement is processed, she said.
"FEMA will hold your hand through the entire process," said Anyssa Core, representing the West Virginia DHSE.
Requests for assistance are due by Dec. 27, said Auvil.