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Washington County government, power provider have emergency plans

August 15, 2003|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

shappell@herald-mail.com

Spokespeople from local agencies say they are prepared should a crippling blackout that left the parts of the northern United States and southern Canada without electricity Thursday hit in the area.

Joe Kroboth, director of emergency services for Washington County, said the county has a contingency plan, known as "Emergency Support Function 12," to coordinate response and recovery from various utility failures.

"Our plan is almost a mirror image of the plan in New York, with the mayor disseminating information to the public on how to get through this period of time," Kroboth said.

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The county has two emergency, stand-by generators and a one-hour energy backup supply to keep the 911 center operational and to power the Emergency Operation Center, Kroboth said. Necessary emergency employees and government officials would go to the center, he said.

The county is equipped to transport emergency generators to fire stations, hospitals and residences for the elderly, Kroboth said.

The most important thing for people to remember during a blackout or other emergency is to "remain calm and patient," he said.

"With any emergency there is a lag time to respond," Kroboth said.

Tasks related to power outages would fall primarily on the local electricity provider, which is Allegheny Power for the Hagerstown area.

Allegheny Power employees fielded a number of phone calls Thursday, Tara Curtis said, although the area was not affected by the blackout.

"I think there was some panic from customers worried it would roll down to our area," Curtis said. "Fortunately, our systems were operable."

Allegheny Power has an emergency plan in place, Curtis said. She said preparation for outages is crucial for the company.

"With our business, we're pretty much prepared every day for outages," Curtis said.

Curtis said the company relies on several on-call repair people and is prepared to call in additional personnel. Curtis said she was unable to give specifics about the company's emergency response plans on the spot.

Allegheny Power's Alan Staggers, manager of communications, said he knew specific details but would not release them because of security reasons.

Washington County Hospital Public Relations Director Maureen Theriault was unable to elaborate on the particulars of the hospital's emergency plan. Theriault said emergency drills are held at least twice a year to help train staff members to deal with disaster scenarios. She said the hospital has an Emergency Response Team, consisting of administrators and department representatives.

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