State Emergency Management Conference, Day 2
This morning my first breakout session was with a look at last year's earthquake and tornado, but from a different point of view. We heard from the school superintendent of Louisa County, where they lost two schools to the August earthquake and the superintendent in Gloucester County where they lost a school to an April tornado. Yesterday we heard from the public safety professionals about the immediate responses to these events. The superintendents spoke on how they implemented Continuity of Operations (COOP).
In Louisa, they lost buildings housing 40% of their students in about 15 seconds... the only high school and one of five elementary schools. They shut down all schools for a couple of days to give staff and student families a little time to get their own losses under control. When they reopened, they came up with a plan for the elementary students to co-locate with another elementary school using trailer classrooms. The high school students were moved into the middle school on an alternating schedule. M-W-F for high school and T-Th-Sa for middle school. The days were extended to 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. to ensure they met the state requirements for school hours in a year. That lasted through the first semester, and they now have trailers set up for the high school with the expectations keep it that way for another couple of years until they can get new schools built.
In Gloucester, they got hit by the same tornado that hit the Surry Power Plant that I wrote about yesterday. It killed two people in a nearby subdivision and wiped about half of a middle school off the map, along with eight school buses. Thankfully, it was on a Saturday evening, so there were no students or staff there. If it had been during school, they could have easily lost a couple of hundred people. They shut down schools for two days, and by Wednesday had the school moved in with the other county middle school. Instead of alternating days like Louisa, they had an early shift, then switched mid day and had a late shift. That went on through the end of the school year, only about 2.5 months. For this school year, they moved trailers to the high school for 8th graders from both middle schools and have 6th and 7th graders from both school combined at the remaining middle school.
Two different solutions for a similar problem, and both seem to work for their unique communities.
I Hated Irene
The next session was about Hurricane Irene. Presenters were a meteorologist from the National Weather Service, the emergency manager for the City of Virginia Beach, and the fire chief for my home county, New Kent. They talked about how Irene was a complete contrast to all of her expectations. The coastal city really did not get affected too bad, other than some lowland flooding and a small tornado that took out a couple of beach houses in Sandbridge. A hundred miles inland, New Kent was one of the worst hit localities in the state. We had 100% of the county without power for multiple days (our homestead was without for 7.5), dozens of homes were destroyed, and about $15 million dollars in damage. New Kent had three different Points of Distribution (PODs) set up to hand out water, ice, etc... after the storm cleared. Funny thing is we never knew about the PODs. Nice thing about being preppers, huh? It didn't matter to us whether they were giving out stuff or not.
I spoke with the chief for a moment after the presentation and told him of my three-hour trip home from the big city the morning after Irene and the way the community came together with chainsaws to clear the roads. We agreed that a real benefit of being in a rural area over an urban or suburban locality is that the citizens have a much higher rate of personal preparedness and accountability, along with tools and the skills to use them.
I've got a couple more speakers to hear at the conference tomorrow morning. I've been very pleased with the conference so far and look forward to the rest of it. I'm getting quite a bit of good information to help me professionally, and as an individual prepper.