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Local Emergency Planning Committee Discusses Rain Gauges

By Staff | Feb 7, 2018

During the Jan.19 meeting of Wetzel County’s Local Emergency Planning Committee, Ray Renaud – from the Wetzel County Office of Emergency Management – updated meeting attendees on rain gauges.

“At the last meeting, we discussed the Flooding Emergency Operating Plan. In the process of researching, we found that there were fiber gauges in Wetzel County that appear on the website. They turn different colors, depending on the degree of the flooding. The problem was that three of the gauges were not working,” Renaud explained.

Renaud contacted the National Weather Service to inquire about fixing the issue of the gauges.

“It’s probably another month’s of work of who owns the gauges and who is going to pay for the gauges,” Renaud said. He continued, “I volunteered. I said I will go out and fix it, and they said, ‘You will not. The government will sue your butt for touching the thing.'”

Renaud said the OEM has removed all of the sections concerning monitoring of rain gauges from the Emergency Operations Plan (EOP).

OEM Director Ed Sapp said emergency services has basically just gone back to the old way of gauging, which is using the warnings and watches from the National Weather Service out of Pittsburgh.

Renaud said that during his last contact with the National Weather Service, the entity did state they would look into maintenance for the rain gauges.

LEPC member Steve Yoho reported that the LEPC attended training at Westlake Chemical on Nov. 2. The training touched on preparing agencies for a chlorine leak. Feedback revealed that communications could be improved. They are still waiting on an “After Actions” report and hope that it is received before the next meeting.

Sapp announced that Rover pipeline donated $10,000 to the county’s first responders. Because of the August 2016 Axiall chlorine leak, the money will be used to purchase four remote gas monitors with a head unit.

“These monitors can be set up and will report back the air quality; that way you can always retrieve as far as your incident of command, how far you need to get back, or how close it’s getting to Wetzel County Hospital. That would have been handy to have during the real incident,” Sapp explained.

Sapp went on to say that the recent exercise at Westlake involved a similar mock incident. He said there was some confusion as far as “shelter in place” goes, as well as when to actually shut down the heating and air conditioning system.

In another matter, Executive Director Mary Ash discussed the various services offered by the Wetzel County Committee on Aging.

“We do everything from in-home services from a bath, to cleaning, transportation for medical, as well as hair appointments, and fun trips – such as going to the Amish Country and Lancaster, and we do bingo,” Ash explained.

According to Ash, the committee serves approximately 6,000 seniors in the county. They operate Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. There are four unique locations in the county including: New Martinsville, Paden City, Pine Grove and Hundred. Unfortunately, the Hundred location is currently under construction due to the flood in July. Seniors from Hundred currently travel to Pine Grove for services. Each location offers fun activities such as quilting at Pine Grove, baking at Paden City, and bingo, yoga and TOPS at New Martinsville.

Ash explained that the committee relies heavily on donations to help with the upkeep of vehicles and other various expenses. Federal and state funding is used strictly, designated for services.

“We are a non-profit agency and the county is very good to us. Like I said before, with the funding I receive, we are about an $800,000 business, believe it or not. But 90 percent of my budgets go to services in the home. For the girls’ salary and mine, I have to find that somewhere else,” Ash explained.

Some of the services and programs discussed includes transportation services, waiver services, Medicaid Personal Care Program, Homemaker/Chore Services, Telephone Reassurance, Lighthouse Program, Respite, FAIR, Veterans services and LIEAP. For more information on services, follow the committee on Facebook or call 304-455-3220.

It was announced during the agency reports that the emergency management center received a new communications truck, which was parked outside for viewing. There were some slight issues with the truck, such as the generators or not running yet.

Also, Williams donated $2,500 toward the siren project. The project involves placing three siren systems in New Martinsville. The project is estimated to cost $56,000. With the help from Covestro and the City of New Martinsville, Sapp said they basically just need to purchase the sirens. Covestro agreed to help with the sirens and give access to activate, while the city agreed to set the poles and pay for the electrical systems. Sapp said the next step, after getting the siren system installed, is training the community to know what to do when the sirens sound.

“That’s where the LEPC would come in as far as the grants for public education, with the shelter in place brochure and teaching the community,” Sapp remarked.

In other business, the LEPC moved to table elections until the next meeting so they would have time to advertise.

The next LEPC meeting is scheduled for April 20 at 11 a.m. at the Mollohan Center.