BECKLEY, WV (WVNS) — With the first hint of fall in the air, Raleigh County NAACP President Barbara Charles said on Thursday, September 14, 2023, that her group is planning a response initiative for this coming winter, in case of a widespread water outage.

Last year, broken water lines at the private Beckley Water Company and the public service districts in the county, along with frozen residential pipes, led to a month-long water crisis which, according to Raleigh County officials, started on Christmas Eve.

“At that time, I could not reach anyone, for the four days that we suffered because Christmas was on a Monday,” Charles said. “Nothing opened until Tuesday. We just had to depend on what we had.”

Charles says a number of families were without water to drink or flush. She says a response from official agencies took days, prompting her group to provide water and dinner to a number of senior citizens who were without water.

“All the resources that local government, state and city, we could not reach FEMA, we could not reach the fire department, we could not reach anyone to provide that relief,” said Charles. “We were it.”

Beckley Mayor Rob Rappold said on Friday, September 15, 2023, that city resources are available in case of a water crisis, but that local government is not the primary responder to a water outage in Beckley.

Beckley Water Company is a for-profit company.

“The city stands by to support Beckley Water Company’s communication and PSD’s that pipe their water in the event of a disastrous freeze,” said Rappold. “However, as a private utility, it is BWC’s primary responsibility for immediate response. The city also recommends communication with EOC for updates on timetables.”

Charles said her group plans to speak with officials about a response plan, meanwhile, she urged everyday people to help one another as cold weather approaches.

“Number one thing is neighbor helping neighbor,” she advised. “Check on your neighbors, your seniors, everyone.”

A spokesperson for the Beckley Water Company said that company representatives are available to meet with Charles and others to discuss cold weatherization of pipes.

The company website offers pipe damage prevention tips for cold weather.