A samaritan in a C&O shirt clears a tree from Ridge Street after a two years ago microburst
The emergency kit that Kirby Felts keeps at home.
Albemarle and other officials gathered on a recent Thursday afternoon to inform citizens of new strategies– including more chainsaw training and "no-tech" info spots– to prevent reaching another disaster like the one faced in the aftermath of the June 29 derecho.
Kirby Felts, Emergency Management Coordinator for Albemarle, Charlottesville, and UVA, said the county will provide designated "information spots" where citizens would be able to go to receive information in the wake of a power outage. The derecho was the third highest power outage incident in the history of Virginia, she said.
Felts outlined the need to improve volunteer management and coordination, facility readiness to house citizens, logistics management, and– most importantly– public information.
“We are going to be deepening a communications strategy to include no-tech solutions where we will have pre-identified locations where we can post information," said Felts, also suggesting "the most current social media for everyone that has smart phones and still has them charged.”
Dan Eggelston, Fire Rescue Chief, and Steve Sellers, the police chief, advised citizens to remain informed by preparing a communication plan with family and building an emergency kit.
At the July 26 press conference held in the County Office Building, Sellers said that response times were impeded by officers having to wait for the fire staff or local citizens to come remove the trees that had fallen and blocked the road.
“In the future, we’ll consider arranging to have our officers trained to use chainsaws and deploy them in the field,” he said.
When questioned about what sort of fiscal damage Albemarle incurred from the storm, no figures were given, but Felts did say the county has already submitted a request for reimbursement from the federal government. (The state is seeking a $27.5 million reimbursement.)
“Getting a federal declaration is the more rare event," said Felts. "It is always on the locality, and then hopefully we can plead the state.”
Felts highlighted the coordination and teamwork that is being seen between different departments of the county to help rectify damage from the storm. She urges families to have their homes prepared, thinking about what individual needs they have which need to be fulfilled, which include evaluating your space and your safety in that space.
“Building a kit is one of the things you hear from emergency managers over and over and over,” Felts said, as she explained the items in her own personal kit that she brought from her home to the press conference. These included a battery-powered weather radio, pet food, and an “old-school” landline phone which works without power.
Felts also urged individuals to contact their power companies letting them know if his or her power is out, so the company can pinpoint the problem more precisely. She said that Dominion Virginia Power is working to improve its own infrastructure.