Montgomery County officials recently tested the County’s emergency response plans in preparation for tropical storm and hurricane season, which starts June 1. Residents are urged to heed any hurricane watches and warnings, and plan for a more active hurricane season this year. Weather forecasters are predicting as many as eight major storms in 2010.
Last month, the County conducted an emergency exercise that focused on an imaginary hurricane named Zoe that reached the Eastern Shore and Washington Metropolitan Area in time for Labor Day weekend. The exercise included major power outages, significant wind and tree damage, evacuations and shelters, and disrupted residents’ holiday travel and plans. Approximately 80 County workers and emergency responders participated in the all-day April 8 exercise in the Emergency Operations Center, testing and enhancing their skills in the areas of public safety and security, mass care and health and human services, public health and medical services, communications, public works and engineering, transportation, external affairs, emergency management, donations and volunteer management, and firefighting. Staff from public utilities and municipalities also participated in the exercise to test and enhance coordination of emergency response efforts.
The effects of a hurricane or tropical storm can be far-reaching. Areas impacted directly by a hurricane or tropical storm can be affected by high winds and flooding, especially along waterways and in low-lying areas. Fringe areas of these storms are vulnerable to tornadoes and in-land flooding caused by heavy rain.
Residents are advised to be alert to weather advisories and to prepare for high winds and flooding, as well as power outages. A “watch” is issued when there is a threat of hurricane conditions within 48 hours. A “warning” is issued when hurricane conditions are expected in a specified area in 36 hours or less. Hurricane conditions include winds of 74 miles per hour (64 knots) or greater, and/or dangerously high tides and waves. Actions to protect life and property should begin immediately when the warning is issued.
Storm Preparedness Tips
• Keep flashlights, battery-powered radios and extra batteries on hand, along with a basic first aid kit, emergency food and water, and a non-electric can opener.
• County residents, workers and frequent visitors are encouraged to sign up for timely electronic alerts about local weather and other emergencies by going to https://alert.montgomerycountymd.gov .
• Emergency preparations should include having enough food, water, medication (if needed) and batteries to last two to three days. Make sure portable radios, smoke detectors and flashlights are working properly.
• Check with neighbors who may require special assistance to see if they need help in stocking up on supplies or medications, and call/contact them during the storm.
• Listen to the radio or television for weather reports.
• Bring in outdoor objects such as lawn furniture, toys and garden tools; or anchor objects that cannot be brought inside but could be tossed by high winds.
• Clean out gutters.
• Turn the refrigerator and freezer to the coldest setting in anticipation of a power outage. Open the door only when necessary and close quickly. Frozen food in a half-full freezer will remain safe for up to 24 hours, and in a full freezer, up to 48 hours.
• Refrain from putting out trash cans for regular pickup the night before a storm.
During Power Outages
• Use flashlights and battery-powered lanterns for light and battery-powered radios and computers for storm progress reports and information. To prevent fires, appliances should be unplugged until the power is restored.
• Residents without power should be aware that using gas or charcoal grills, propane heaters and stoves, kerosene space heaters or generators indoors can be fatal. They are a source of carbon monoxide, which can build up indoors and cause carbon monoxide poisoning. Avoid using candles or outdoor grills indoors, to prevent the risk of a fire.
• In anticipation of possible flooding, residents are encouraged to store valuables and personal papers in a waterproof container; and avoid areas subject to flooding, including low spots, canals and streams.
• Do not attempt to drive over a flooded road – you can be stranded or trapped. The depth of the water and the condition of the road is not always obvious.
Night Time Safety
• Use extra caution at night when it is harder to recognize flood dangers, downed wires and other hazards.
• For downed trees on public property, residents should call the County’s Department of Transportation at 240-777-6000 during work hours (7:30 a.m. – 4 p.m., Monday–Friday); email firstname.lastname@example.org. After-hours calls should be directed to the Police non-emergency number at 301-279-8000. To report trees that have fallen on utility lines, contact the local utility companies -- PEPCO at 1-877-737-2662, Allegheny Power at 1-800-255-3443 or Baltimore Gas and Electric at 1-877-778-2222. To report “hot” wires or sparking wires, especially those across roadways, call 9-1-1.
• Trees that have fallen on private property are the responsibility of the property owner. The County’s Office of Consumer Protection advises homeowners to deal with established businesses only and to call Consumer Protection first to check on a business complaint record. Consumer Protection can be reached at 240-777-3636.
Tips for Pet Owners
Preparing for a storm
• Any outdoor pet facility/home/shelter should either be brought indoors or securely anchored in place to prevent it from being tossed by high winds.
• Make sure you have an adequate supply of pet food and other supplies for the duration of the storm and its aftermath.
• If applicable, make sure that you have an adequate supply of your pets’ medications on hand.
During a storm
• Bring pets indoors during severe weather.
• Because pets, except for service animals, are not allowed in County-operated emergency shelters, residents who must evacuate their homes during a storm should consider the following options for pet care:
• Take an adequate supply of food and medications.
• Make arrangements with a friend or family member to care for your pet. Be sure to leave feeding instructions and a schedule of any necessary medications.
• Plan to go to a local pet-friendly hotel.
• Take the pet’s bedding and favorite toys or any other item that can calm the animal during a stressful situation.
Where to Get Emergency Preparedness Information
For more information about emergency preparedness, go to the County website.
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