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Nipps says evacuation plan needs more work

December 05, 2005|by ERIN CUNNINGHAM

WASHINGTON COUNTY

erinc@herald-mail.com

After reading a Nov. 27 story in The Herald-Mail about the county's interim emergency evacuation plan, Washington County Commissioner Doris J. Nipps said it was clear a review of the document was needed.

"It does look like we have some serious work that needs to be done," she said.

The commissioners have not reviewed the county's 49-page interim evacuation plan but plan to do so within the year after the plan is critiqued by other groups. Commissioners will ultimately vote on whether to make the plan permanent.

Nipps said she would like to see the commissioners get involved, making sure each agency and every citizen knows how to respond to an emergency.

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The county's plan, written by Emergency Planner Stoyan Russell, had not been viewed by anyone outside of Washington County Emergency Services before September.

Nipps said the plan should be further along than it is. Russell said during earlier interviews that the document is continuously being updated and reviewed. The last time it had been reviewed before The Herald-Mail requested a copy in September was June.

"I think we should be a little bit further along," Nipps said. "It needs to be worked on faster."

Nipps said during past hurricanes and other disasters, when emergency plans - but not an evacuation plan - have been used, she has been satisfied with the results.

Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said he has not seen the plan or The Herald-Mail story, but he is focused on moving forward with a new communications system for the county.

"I haven't seen the evacuation plan, but I have seen other emergency plans, and I am confident with those," he said.

Snook said all commissioners are aware of their roles during a disaster. If there is an emergency that affects the county, Emergency Services personnel will contact Snook, letting him know that an emergency center has been set up.

"They meet and discuss the issue as far as who is doing what, so there is no duplication," Snook said. "Everyone knows what is happening."

Nipps said she has a lot of confidence in Joe Kroboth, director of Washington County Emergency Services, and other emergency personnel, who work for Washington County and Hagerstown.

"Just make sure that the citizens of Washington County know what they need to do in the event of an emergency," she said. "It's not a bad thing to know what you need to improve."

Commissioner John C. Munson said there might be aspects of the county's preparedness beyond the evacuation plan that need improvement.

He was concerned about the number of electricity generators available for radio stations, fire stations and other necessary buildings.

Munson also said citizens might have trouble receiving emergency alerts.

"Most people don't have battery-operated radios, I don't think," he said.

Munson also cited concern over the number of available shelter spaces in the county. If required to shelter residents now, there would be a deficit of about 22,000 shelter spaces, according to data provided by Russell.

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