June 19, 2006
Dear Village Resident(s):
Do you know what to do in the event of an emergency – natural or man-made?Who will you call?Where would you go?How would you get there?In recent months, Village staff has been working with County officials and our own Village residents to develop good advice on how best to be prepared.Throughout all the discussions, the overwhelming recommendation is to make a plan.
It is a simple concept, but hard to do when the nature of the emergency is uncertain.On the following pages, the Village office provides summary and reference information on how to become better prepared.There is also a questionnaire that, when completed and returned, will help guide development of Village-wide preparedness efforts organized around neighbors helping neighbors in the early hours after an emergency situation occurs.
We ask that you:
We hope to hear from you and would appreciate your help in making the Village planning effort as thorough as possible.
The new reality
There is no easy way to say it; 9-11 changed our lives.That day’s events made us acknowledge the world is far different than we would like it to be.For us and the generations before us, emergency planning had been limited to seasonal sparring with Mother Nature facing rain, snow, high wind and related power outages.9-11 reshaped the environment.Today, emergency preparedness means planning for not just the normal assortment of natural phenomena but also for a host of unthinkable and unpredictable man-made disasters. Does dwelling on the situation do any good? No.Does accepting the reality and making the necessary basic preparations make sense? Yes.
Hurricane season opened June 1
Historically, most disruptions to our lives are weather related, and, though they may be prolonged, recovery periods from heavy snows and tropical storms are taken in stride by most of us.Summer thunderstorms can be devastating either through their high winds or torrential rains.Coping with the loss of power or flooded basements in the aftermath of thunderstorms is daunting, frustrating – even infuriating – but it is manageable.
In the past 25 years, Village residents have endured at least three 24-inch snowstorms (’78, ’96, ’03), tornado-like damage from a freak “downburst” in ’89 that toppled trees throughout the Village crushing cars, slicing through roofs and clogging our neighborhood streets for days.The July 27 thunderstorm in 2004 put 5 inches of rain into the storm and sewer systems in less than two hours flooding basements across, not just the Village, but the entire region.But again, coping with these types of events is manageable.The nightly news broadcasts routinely show us flood, storm and snow damage from across the region and around the world.We are familiar with those situations and that exposure and experience makes us better able to cope when it is our turn.
Since 9-11, the American population has become uncomfortably aware of a whole host of potentially devastating event scenarios.Unlike the weather events where we know how to “pick up the pieces,” these new types of events are unfamiliar and we must develop new plans to endure them drawing, where practical, on our experience. Added to these man-made possibilities is the avian/bird flu potential with an entirely different range of impacts.
Institutionalized community and region-wide planning within Montgomery County is not new.The Village became involved with Montgomery County’s Emergency Planning and Preparedness work in the 1990s when concerns were identified – dubbed “Y2K” – over potential wide-spread computer failures at the rollover from 1999 to 2000. That planning group and coordination effort has evolved over time and the Village staff, especially our Police Department, is included.
This summary’s remainder focuses on preparedness addressing in sequence:1) what the Village has learned thus far in working with County and other officials;2) what can reasonably be expected from the Village government; and 3) what Village residents as individuals, families and neighbors must plan and be prepared to be responsible for on their own.
Since 9-11 much progress has been made, but there are no magic solutions to disaster mitigation when the scope of potential events is so broad.The message increasingly distributed through the media and reinforced by Hurricane Katrina assessments, is that counting on the Government for conventional response and services in the first 24-48 hours after an emergency/disaster event occurs is not recommended.
When an event occurs, the nature of the event will dictate the governmental response, and the Village will coordinate its staff and resources with the other jurisdictions.In that first 24 to 48 hours, even first responder -- police, fire, and rescue -- priorities will be determined by the coordinating authority.For the Village this coordinating authority is the Montgomery County Emergency Management Group (EMG).The EMG is comprised of representatives from approximately 40 area governments, agencies, institutions and utilities that will coordinate their response.The Village is included.EMG resources will be marshaled to respond based directly on the degree of need and the ability to be effective.
The County’s planning is for “All Hazards”.There is no statistical analysis driving the EMG to emphasize one type of man-made disaster over another.The objective is to have command, control and communications protocols in place that are adaptable to the event once defined.
How will the Village government react?
The Village government will function in a coordinated manner as directed by the EMG with the situation (time of day, type of event, environmental conditions and mobility, etc.) dictating our staff’s ability to assist.There are some situations where training and specialized equipment will allow selected individuals and teams to function with high effect and other situations where all mobility and outdoors movement will be prohibited. Until initial assessments are made and communications begin to flow, residents should expect that Village staff – including Police -- will react to any given situation to ensure staff safety, security and eventual availability to assist our residents.
What should Residents do?
Planning is essential.On the following page we are providing web addresses for organizations providing guidelines, lists, recommendations and general discussion on the planning process you and your family should put in place.The Village staff and the staffs of countless other governmental units will be constrained by the nature of the event in exactly the same way residents will be.
Village – Resident Coordination
Planners across the country advocate the best way we can help our residents is to foster the development of support networks where assistance is provided by neighbors helping neighbors.Initial-stage aid will come in many forms ranging from simply relaying news and information, to providing refrigerator space for a neighbor’s medicines, to providing 4-wheel-drive transportation when appropriate. Following the listing of web addresses and organizations for individual planning is a questionnaire we ask you to please complete.
The questionnaire will help us identify people across the Village with special training, education, skills or resources that, we would hope, could be drawn upon in times of need to help those nearby. We have the Village directory cross-referenced by name and address, but we would like to build a third cross-reference telling us who might be a registered nurse or who is a HAM radio hobbyist or who has a generator and would be willing to store refrigerated medicines.Please take a moment to fill out the form; it may also be completed on-line at ccvillage.org.