Governor Jim Justice provided an update on the State of Preparedness ahead of Hurricane Florence on Wednesday, September 12.
Here is a look at the plans and preparations made by several state agencies regarding the storm:
WEST VIRGINIA NATIONAL GUARD
- 50 Guardsmen and women have been put into a duty status for preparation and staging at locations across the state.
- At this time, the WVNG has dispatched 13 Soldiers from the Army Interagency Education and Training Center (AITEC) to locations in the path of Hurricane Florence. These Soldiers will serve as joint enabling teams (JET) deployed to the National Guard Coordination Center, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia. JET members have advanced training in homeland defense and response and will serve as additional assets and liaisons for National Guard units’ requirements at the national level in coordination with the NGCC.
- The WVNG’s swift water rescue team, a joint endeavor with Clendenin and Glasgow Volunteer Fire Departments, is on standby for staging and deployment depending on the tracking of the storm.
- At the 167th Airlift Wing in Martinsburg, 20 Air Guard personnel have been working hand-in-hand with representatives from the Federal Emergency Management Agency Region 3 to prepare a staging area for disaster relief supplies. Since yesterday, nearly 70 tractor-trailer loads of water, food, tents, cots, blankets and fuel arrived at the airbase where the supplies will await distribution as needed pending Hurricane Florence’s impact.
- Communications checks within the WVNG and with our county emergency operations centers remains a top priority through the planning and preparation stage right now. County liaison kits are being prepared for deployment so that WVNG liaison officers can relay county needs to the state EOC as quickly as possible for response.
DEPARTMENT OF MILITARY AFFAIRS AND PUBLIC SAFETY (DMAPS)
Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management:
- Fully activated the new State Emergency Operations Center at 8 a.m. today
- The SEOC hosts representatives of the array of government, non-profit volunteer and other response participants so they can closely communicate and coordinate.
- The SEOC shares an operations room with the W.Va. National Guard’s Joint Operations Center, allowing for side-by-side coordination and communication for the first time.
- The SEC and JOC are new, and feature the latest in modern telecommunications capabilities.
- Activated the web-based E-TEAM platform so state, county and local responders can submit, assess and fulfill requests for resources and provide information updates.
- Launched a real-time situational awareness communications platform through the U.S. Homeland Security Information Network (HSIN) for all response participants.
- Hosting special National Weather Service briefings for county and local emergency managers at 2 p.m. daily.
- Participating in daily conference calls with FEMA.
- Communication channels have been tested and are ready.
- iFlows rain gauges have been tested and are ready.
- All DHSEM staff were placed on call Sunday in response to flooding from Hurricane Gordon and potential from Hurricane Florence.
West Virginia State Police:
- All detachment commanders are staying in contact with county and local emergency and 911 officers.
- Limiting all leave requests unless previously approved to keep as many troopers in the field and on the road.
- Monitoring for power outages and high water, particularly if in unexpected areas.
- Emphasizing the “Turn Around, Don’t Drown” message.
State Fire Marshal’s Office:
- Deputy marshals with forward drive vehicles are on standby to assist.
- Fire Marshals are available to inspect hospitals, schools and other public or essential buildings to check their safety and readiness if there is an event.
- The Fire Marshal’s Office will help coordinate deployment of volunteer fire departments.
West Virginia Intelligence/Fusion Center (WVI/FC):
- The West Virginia Intelligence/Fusion Center (WVI/FC) personnel have begun receiving updates from partners regarding their preparations efforts for the hurricane and passing them along to the State Emergency Operations Center. Additionally, fusion center personnel are on standby in the event that an agency would request their assistance.
- The WVI/FC is utilizing its Fusion Liaison Officer (FLO) Program. FLOs throughout the state send impact updates to the WVI/FC. The information is compiled into comprehensive reports, which are prepared for the West Virginia National Guard, West Virginia Office of Emergency Management, and the Governor’s Office. The reports assist in determining the allocation of resources to communities; as well as providing a statewide impact overview to the Governor’s Office.
- Additionally, Fusion Center personnel assist agencies in obtaining resources to aid their recovery efforts during a natural disaster.
- The FLO program is intended for law enforcement, first responders, state and local agencies, and public/private sector entities throughout West Virginia to strengthen information sharing, enhance multi-jurisdiction partnerships, and to provide a platform for local representatives to share information related to homeland security and criminal threats, potential serious incidents, and natural disasters.
- FLOs are the direct point of contact for the WVI/FC within their agency and/or community. There are currently 231 trained FLOs throughout the State of West Virginia.
DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN RESOURCES (DHHR)
- The role of the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources Center for Threat Preparedness (CTP), directed under the State Health Officer of the Bureau for Public Health, facilitates advanced planning for local health departments and health care systems statewide to coordinate, prepare and respond to emergency events that impact public health.
- During a crisis, the DHHR Health Command becomes an extension of the state Emergency Operations Center. DHHR’s Health Command consists of subject matter experts within the Department who coordinate the overall health and medical response and access the needs of facilities (hospitals and nursing homes) for medical supplies, saline, water, oxygen, and medical and personal protective equipment.
- In addition, CTP coordinates planning and deployment of state assets, when needed, such as mass care, behavioral health, environmental health, disease outbreak and investigation, mass causalities, and mass fatalities.
DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION
- DEP is in direct contact with EPA Region 3 Administrator Cosmo Servidio about additional resources that are available for air monitoring, rapid needs assessment, sampling and analysis, assessments of drinking water facilities, and addressing threats from releases of hazardous materials and oil impacting navigable waterways that could impact the public welfare and/or the environment
- More than 200 WVDEP field staff, including inspectors from Office of Oil and Gas, Division of Mining and Reclamation, and Environmental Enforcement, have been on heightened alert since Monday and have been instructed to inspect all existing control structures and areas of concern that need to be evaluated to address the need for any enhanced Best Management Practices (BMPs) or additional control measures. The goal is that issues are addressed before noncompliance occurs.
- All field staff have been alerted to be ready to respond to reports of emergencies.
- DEP Dam Safety has contacted all dam owners in West Virginia and is recommending that they inspect their dams prior to this weekend to make sure their dams are operating properly and do any preventive maintenance to make sure spillways are operating at full capacity. DEP Dam Safety is also asking dam owners to make sure all obstructions of flow are removed and trash racks are clean and in proper working condition and to make sure Monitoring and Emergency Action Plans (MEAP) are available and ready to be used if necessary.
- DEP has reached out to regulated industries in an effort to develop a cooperative approach that can be taken to get collective efforts working together to ensure that any storm events result in the least adverse impact possible. WVDEP has been in communication with IOGA, West Virginia Coal Association, WVONGA, and West Virginia Manufacturers Association and asked they communicate with their members stressing the importance of cooperation.
- Mountain Valley Pipeline and Atlantic Coast Pipeline have both informed WVDEP that they have focused on enhancing Best Management Practices (BMPS), constructing sediment control structures, and moving equipment to higher ground.
DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION
- DOT has reached out to the Federal Highways Administration to put them on notice that we may have a need for their assistance should the damages warrant.
- Provided a memorandum across Division of Highways easing weight restrictions for those vehicles transporting relief supplies.
- Modified construction zones to open up as much of the roadways as possible and asked districts to be on alert for possible “trouble spots” in their areas, as it would pertain to traffic flowing freely.
- Requested that the Courtesy Patrol to be extra vigilant for motorists who may be experiencing difficulties.
- Provided a reminders list to all DOH districts of what needs to be done to prepare equipment/personnel for the storm that includes making sure that all emergency generators are operational, check inventory for chainsaws, chains, bars, etc., purchasing items if districts are low and making sure they’re ready to be used, making certain that every piece of equipment is fueled up and topped off.
- Notifying all personnel that if an emergency occurs, they will be expected to answer their phones and report to work.
- Touching base with emergency contractors to let them know that we may need them.
- Checking routes and clearing any obvious potential problems like making sure limbs/debris are out of pipes and unplugging culverts.
DIVISION OF NATURAL RESOURCES
- DNR personnel assigned to Dam Safety Compliance are reviewing and monitoring emergency action plans for all State Parks, Forests and Wildlife Management Areas.
- Preemptively closed three locations for the safety of staff and patrons. Mountain Creek Lodge at Pipestem Resort State Park, Blennerhassett Island and East Shore Campground at Bluestone State Park will be closed until conditions return to normal. A heightened awareness and close monitoring of weather will determine the ongoing operation of the aerial trams at Pipestem Resort and Hawks Nest State Parks along with the scenic chair lift at Canaan Valley Resort State Park.
- The most current status of State Park closures will be available in the central office and at the State Park reservations call center. 1-833-WVPARKS
- State Park and Forest Superintendents are on heightened awareness of predictive weather conditions. and will be working or on call through the period monitoring the facilities and conditions. Field units and office staff have been provided with the most current State Parks Emergency Reporting Procedures. This includes standard preparations of supplies and equipment to assist in clearing roadways and utility rights-of way, preparations for loss of utilities and guest safety. Division central operations staff are on call and heightened alert during the storm period.
- State Park and Forest Lodges, Cabins and Campgrounds are offering a 55% discount to evacuees through Tuesday. This will be evaluated Monday to determine the need to continue.
- DNR Law Enforcement Section working with State OES and will provide emergency assets statewide, including boats, kayaks, rafts, ATV’s, UTVs, and 4WD vehicles. Additionally, Natural Resources Police Officers are stationed statewide and will be on duty around the clock throughout the event to provide emergency assistance as necessary, including security resources for flooded business and residential areas. All officers are equipped with interoperable radios for communication with all state agencies and are familiar with the terrain and topography of their counties of assignment to provide alternate routes in or out of potentially affected areas.
- Wildlife Resources Section is monitoring the situation statewide and have staff on call and available to provide emergency services and resources including boats, ATV’s, UTV’s, tractors, 4WD vehicles, chainsaws and radios.