MASON COUNTY — The coldest temperatures in years had many first responders on high alert Monday night, prepared for any worst case scenario.
Chuck Blake, director of Mason County Emergency Management, said his office already had a plan in place to coordinate with Mason County 911 when it comes to monitoring and meeting the needs of the public during this extreme weather event.
As of Monday afternoon, Blake said there was no request for any emergency warming stations - places residents can go to in order to remain warm. He said if that need arises, and numbers were low, plans were in place to work with area churches and/or the American Red Cross.
In addition, Blake said emergency personnel working for Mason County EMS were all carrying sufficient, extra supplies (including extra blankets) to keep patients being transported to area hospitals warm and unexposed to the extreme elements. In addition, all EMS personnel have been instructed to take extra care with their own personal safety by wearing weather appropriate clothing and to keep covered as much as possible to avoid weather related health issues. All EMS stations have also been stocked with supplies to get through this winter blast.
“We’re hoping people stay in,” Blake said about this extreme weather. “And stay away from space heaters. Avoid potentially dangerous, alternate heating sources, including using cooking stoves for heat.”
Blake said his office, and others in emergency management, stress residents have a safe, alternate heating source if the power would go out. Though ice doesn’t appear to be a problem with power lines during this winter event, the need for power possibly could be an issue.
“Our biggest worry is the load on the power grid causing the power to go offline,” Blake said. “If we can get through Monday night (Tuesday morning), we’ll be in good shape.”
Blake said in the event of a large power outage, EMA would spring into action on a larger scale, including possibly looking at opening an emergency shelter, as well as utilizing the newly formed Citizens Emergency Response Team (CERT) which is staffed by residents who are all volunteers in weather and other disaster-related emergencies.
Blake also asked neighbors and family to check on the elderly and shut-ins. He said EMA and 911 cannot possibly cover the 440 square miles across Mason County to do these checks so agencies like his rely on input from the public. Anyone who is concerned about the well being of an elderly neighbor or family member and can’t reach them in these extreme temperatures, should call 911.
During this weather event, the local EMA office is staying in communication with the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, EMA at the state level and Mason County Health Department among others, to assist meeting public needs on a variety of levels.