This past Tuesday, Governor Martin O’Malley visited Calvert County’s Emergency Operations Center to commend the county for its preparedness and emergency management during and after Hurricane Irene. This was one stop among several that the Governor made in his tour of some of the most damaged areas in the state.
The governor said he was “impressed” with the county’s overall communication with citizens and other agencies. Even though phone service was lost during the storm, text messages and HAM radio operators still went through, and the communication between the EOC and first responders, he said, “I think worked very well,”…
“I think the most important thing is stay connected, keep talking and don’t be shy about asking for help,” O’Malley continued. “Southern Maryland really took it on the chin with this one.”
O’Malley recommended, at the suggestion of Del. Anthony J. O’Donnell (R-Calvert, St. Mary’s), that the county use resources from other jurisdictions that were finished with or nearing completion of their hurricane cleanup efforts. These resources would include extra Department of Social Services staff and stump or tree-clearing crews.
The Governor’s Office will be working with Calvert County to arrange this sharing of resources. O’Malley urged the county to continue their efforts to inform citizens of the dangers of having generators inside their homes; at least two citizens have already died of carbon monoxide poisioning as a result of keeping generators inside the home.
[Calvert County Public Safety Director Jackie Vaughan], who slept only a few hours the entire weekend, said the disaster management team performed well, identifying homes within 100 feet of the cliffs above the Chesapeake Bay and notifying those individuals via audio messages, fliers and law enforcement officials who went door-to-door and asked for them to evacuate the area at the height of the storm. A total of 183 people were staying in the county’s designated shelters at the hurricane’s peak and the last shelter was closed Monday evening.
Vaughan said the county would be distributing bottled water in grocery store parking lots since stores had reported being sold out and would set up temporary trailers in the Chesapeake Ranch Estates community, also hit hard by the storm, if needed. Kelly McGuire, the regional liaison for the Maryland Emergency Management Agency, said FEMA had water shipments coming in as well, and Vaughan said the county is working with FEMA to see if alternative housing is available for homeowners.
The county will be comparing aerial photos of the cliffs area from before and after the hurricane to assess erosion damage. They will also work on a plan for communication with communities. Calvert County Commissioners’ President Susan Shaw (R) stated that she would like to have a designee from each community to act as liaison between the county and the community for emergencies such as this. She said a lot of time was spent communicating the same plan to as many as 15 different people from the same community.
Overall, county officials and the Governor are very pleased with Calvert County’s emergency management efforts. Many homes were evacuated in time to prevent personal injury, the county roads were cleared quickly or timely detours were identified, and communication between the county and its residents was constant and constructive.