Hurricane Irene Wrap-Up

This is a comprehensive (and long) message to the community regarding the Hurricane Irene incident and key learning lessons we observed.

Communications
We need many more people in this Township registered with Ready Notify PA so we can deliver important information via Text messages/email/voice calls. Especially text messages, which are critical with the power out.  We plan to continue the use of the web site, our own email list Facebook and Twitter, but the “official” service that is offered to Bucks County Residents is more robust and better suited to emergency needs. Additionally, the Ready Notify system can “reverse 911” call all homes with a landline in the area, a tool that is very useful for reaching people and businesses without cell phones or internet.

We’ll use Ready Notify for:

– Immediate action required alerts before and during emergency incidents (regional evacuation, bridge and critical road closures).
– Informational updates during a state of emergency (where to get water, what roads and areas to avoid, what help is needed)

Ready Notify won’t reach your cell phone or email unless you register. Don’t hesitate, do it now: https://bucks.alertpa.org if you are already registered, check your account, make sure it’s up to date.

We know we need to set up better “in person” community information and services operations. We’d like to be running the Township building as an “Emergency Operations Center”.  However, at the moment, the Township Building is insufficiently equipped to function as an Emergency Operations Center (there’s no generator, the water from the taps isn’t drinkable to name just two things) but these issues can be addressed in a variety of ways.  Tinicum Township did a great job with their operations center, and we’re going to model our future efforts after them as well as Nockamixon Township.

Preparing for Long Duration Power Failures

Long duration (over 72 hours) power failures are rare, but when they happen, they are extremely disruptive and tend to last much longer than 72 hours. As we expected, power failure from downed trees was the main issue once the water went away, and we attempted to keep up to date on the status of the repair work. Met Ed estimates turned out to be generally unreliable information, a fact that we have factored into our future communications plans.

Out here, the lack of electric means no water. In a community with 100% private wells, it’s important that everyone have a plan for having enough drinking water and sanitation (flushing/washing) water when the power goes out.

The general rule of thumb for drinking and cooking water supplies is 1 gallon/per person/per day for at least 3 days, ideally 5 days. That means for a family of 4, you should have no less than 12 gallons of water on hand at any given time, with 20 gallons being a better supply. Fill the bathtub with water for flushing the toilet while your power is still on, or keep a rain barrel full. Use the tub water for washing and so on.

If you have a generator, make sure you have  also actually tested it and that it’s capable of powering your defined “critical” systems as intended. We heard of a number of situations where people quickly learned that their generator could not power their well pump) or that their generator could not power all of their “critical” loads at once. While the sump pump generally is the most critical item during a rain event, after the event other items (including refrigeration) become an issue.

That said, using a generator to keep food fresh may not make the most sense in a long-duration incident. It is generally not cost-effective to run a portable generator that requires anywhere from 10 to 20 gallons of gas a day to keep a refrigerator running – it may be cheaper to discard and replace the food than to pay for fuel.  Here’s a chart showing the costs, assuming gasoline at $3.69 a gallon, and 24 hour a day operation of a generator:

Fuel Gallons Used a Day
Fuel Per Gallon Cost  $   3.69 10 15 20
Days Running 1  $    36.90  $    55.35  $    73.80
2  $    73.80  $  110.70  $  147.60
3  $  110.70  $  166.05  $  221.40
4  $  147.60  $  221.40  $  295.20
5  $  184.50  $  276.75  $  369.00
6  $  221.40  $  332.10  $  442.80

A generator in storage needs to be started once a month, and you should never leave fuel in the generator while it is stored.

Finally, we need HELP. The “We” in the Emergency Management Agency staff is an individual person, a volunteer with a day job, and there is no additional emergency management staff.  While the Township elected officials can – and did – help out, as well as the part-time members of the road crew, the reality is that the Emergency Management Agency function in Bridgeton Township needs more people to volunteer and help out, both during emergencies and equally importantly before and after when there’s nothing going on. We need people who are:

Very comfortable with computers & the internet – there are scores of web sites, spreadsheets, PDF forms and much more involved. Incident reporting, community alerting and more are all done via computer.

– Willing to help with ongoing planning and logistics documentation as well as assisting with public communications

– Available a few times a year for 2 hour training courses.

– Able to be on-call during emergencies to help out with managing incidents.

Please contact the Emergency Management Agency via email – emc@bridgetontwp.org or 610-440-3316 if you can help.

We have an immediate need for

– Deputy Emergency Management Coordinator (takes on the role of EMC as needed, works with the EMC)
– Planning and Logistics Coordinator (helps with authoring and management of planning documents, maps and so on)
– Public Information Officer (helps with the web site, email, general communications with the public)
– Inter-agency Liaison (helps maintain communications with other Emergency Management Agencies)
– A finance and Administration Coordinator.  (helps with budgeting and reimbursement, as well as helping with grant requests)

These are volunteer positions.

Thanks again to the community.

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