Support personnel ready

September 19, 2003|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

If you dial 911 today, you might have to wait, top officials from police and emergency agencies in Washington County said Thursday as Hurricane Isabel's moved closer to the area.

Officials said there would be extra police, firefighters, ambulance crews, and even National Guard members available to deal with emergencies, but some emergency calls that usually would be answered immediately might have a lower priority if the weather keeps officers busy.

"If somebody says there's 4 to 6 inches of water in my basement, I'm sorry," they're probably going to have to wait, Washington County Sheriff Charles F. Mades said. "If you tell me there's a wall caved in and there's four people down there, that's something different."


Officials reached Thursday said the weather could bring problems ranging from malfunctioning traffic lights and communications systems to flooded roads and housing developments. They said they hoped residents would use common sense when making emergency calls. They asked to be notified of true emergencies, including:

  • Any life-threatening situations.

  • Downed power lines.

  • Roadways blocked by trees or standing or moving water.

  • Structural damage to roads or bridges.

Additional help was sent to the area.

Ten additional troopers were available beginning Thursday at the Maryland State Police barracks in Hagerstown; Hagerstown City Police was shifting seven more officers to patrol beginning at 6 a.m. today; and the Washington County Sheriff's Office planned to place all sworn officers on 12-hour shifts beginning at 4 a.m. today. All agencies had signed on more dispatchers.

Fifty members of the 229th Main Support Battalion of the Maryland Army National Guard were sent Wednesday to the armory in Hagerstown to be available should they be needed, Maj. John Stevens said.

Fire and rescue companies around the county called in volunteers for extra service Thursday.

Lt. Brent Bankson of Community Rescue Service Co. 75 said the usual staff was being doubled to operate four ambulances and a rescue squad truck. Nevertheless, Bankson said he hoped callers would consider the strains on emergency personnel.

"Our biggest worry is that the public do not heed the warnings, and do not stay home," Bankson said.

"We'd like people just to take a deep breath and be very specific as to what their needs are," Bankson continued. "If anybody calls with nosebleeds and headaches tonight, it's going to be a long night."

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