GEORGETOWN – Sussex County is not immune to natural or man-made disasters. Flooding precipitates evacuations. High wind knocks out power. Snowstorms and blizzards can deal a paralyzing punch. When disaster strikes, be like Boy Scouts: Be prepared.
That is the timely reminder from the Sussex County Emergency Operations Center, during the county’s observance of National Preparedness Month in September.
Disaster kits, planning ahead with a game-plan and social media connections are vital ingredients in the recipe for public safety and safe-sledding through emergencies, says Sussex County EOC Director Joseph Thomas.
“I am a firm believer everyone should have a disaster kit. Although we typically talk about flooding in this county, the fact is that anything could happen at any given time. I know we don’t see a lot of them in this area but there could be a potential for a tornado,” said Mr. Thomas. “Out west, they deal with wildfires and you see people’s homes destroyed, and when they are told to evacuate they have to evacuate very quickly. So having that kit at the ready is probably very important, actually, because now you don’t have to take the time to put everything together.”
Disaster kits should include a three-day provision of essentials: food and water, prescriptions and medicines, a flashlight with batteries, a battery-powered radio and money – as in cold cash.
“People think of food and water. You don’t think about the fact that you need to have cash because nine times out of 10 power is out. You can’t use ATMs if the power is out,” said Mr. Thomas. “We tell people to put your insurance documents in some sort of plastic; something that won’t get damaged or wet.”
Kits are designed to “help you get through after a storm. FEMA, the federal assistance is typically two to three days getting to us. So if you’ve got three-days’ worth of supplies that you can be self-sufficient, then when help does arrive you just go from one transition to another,” said Mr. Thomas.
Before and during an emergency event, Mr. Thomas urges people if possible to stay in touch with social media, including those at the county level as well local media.
“We do a very robust social media posting. We typically will post on Facebook and Twitter; that is continuously updated all of the time,” said Mr. Thomas.
Information would encompass weather conditions, forecasts, road closures and shelter openings and locations.
When sufficient information warrants, press releases are sent to all local media outlets.
During the Superstorm Sandy event in the fall of 2012, Sussex County launched another informational element: You Tube.
During the height of that storm that hammered New Jersey and impacted Sussex County, notably its coastal communities, Sussex County Director of Communications Chip Guy recommended the county climb another rung up the ladder.
“Chip said need to ‘up our game.’ We did You Tube videos,” Mr. Thomas said. “That really got a good response. One of our first responses was from the governor (Jack Markell). He came down. He and I did one, about two or three minutes along.”
On the county’s website – www.sussexcountyde.gov – in the “Citizens” tab is information on emergency preparedness, hurricane information, shelters, evacuation plans.
Also on the county website is the Sussex County Emergency Operations Center, which includes local weather advisories, hurricane and flood safety, Smart911 and the emergency notification system.
The Delaware Emergency Notification System (DENS) is a notification system designed to notify Delaware residents in the event of an emergency in their area.
The Sussex County Emergency Operations Center, along with the Delaware Emergency Management Agency, encourages residents who exclusively use mobile telephones to register their numbers in a statewide database that will be used for the Delaware Emergency Notification System.
To register your mobile telephone, call or log on to http://public.coderedweb.com/CNE/BF1D885328BF.
News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org