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Emergency Officials Eye Relief Coordination

By Staff | Dec 8, 2015

Photo by Miles Layton Tyler Office of Emergency Managment Director Tom Cooper (left) and Don Collins, Tyler OEM volunteer, stand in front of the future Tyler OEM mobile command trailer that will be used to centralize operations in the event of an emergency.

Tyler County Office of Emergency Management wants to better coordinate relief efforts needed to assist people affected by a tragedy.

“It is essential that we get all the resource providers on the same page so as best to help everyone,” said Tom Cooper, Tyler Office Emergency Management director, during the Thursday, Dec. 3, meeting of the Local Emergency Planning Committee. “As an emergency manager, we all know that churches and non-profit providers are instrumental in helping people recover from disasters. We want to get to them all together so we can notify with one call to deal with an emergency need.”

Cooper said for example, when there’s a fire or disaster that leaves a family homeless or a group of families, there needs to be steps taken so that these people are able to better receive assistance. He called for a central clearing house of sorts that can pull together resources from various groups so as to allocate these items according to need. Hotel rooms for those displaced by fire could be better allocated. And there is no bank account established to hold donations, because the government is not empowered to distribute funds directly to an individual the same way a charity does. Also, computerized alerts should be sent out seeking not only to inform those affected by emergencies, but the appropriate groups who can best provide the type of aid that is needed.

Because aid groups work individually and not necessarily in tandem with one another, Cooper said, problems emerge from lack of coordination. He likened this to “herding cats.”

Cooper recalled how one group in another county offered assistance in the form of a truck load of sweet potatoes, but because no one was able to accept that donation, the truck driver dumped the produce instead. He said while a lot of groups and individuals want to help, organization needs to be in place to make their assistance have the most effect. Cooper stressed that local authorities more than federal power would most likely be able to provide assistance, so it is essential for a plan to be in place to deal with such emergencies.

In other matters, Cooper discussed the lack of resources from state Division of Highways to clear brush and tree limbs from highways. Except in certain situations where a tree or a rock directly obstructs a road, local fire departments can not get involved. Cooper said unless local authorities clear these obstructions, it won’t get done.

“We’re not blaming the local DOH, because we know they lack the resources and personnel to do the job,” Cooper said. “They’re doing all they can with what they’ve got, but we need to this stuff, these tree limbs removed somehow.”

Craig Landis, a Tyler County resident, mentioned that if a property owner contacts the state, it is possible for the DOH to assist with debris removal. He advised residents to contact DOH’s District 6 office in Moundsville and ask for Doug Hayes, Tyler County DOH administrator, at 304-843-4057 or utilize a form on the DOH website at dotftp.wv.gov/cra/

“I have used this form several times to have the road repaired by my house,” Landis said. “It may take a couple of submittals and some patience, but they have always responded.”

In other business, Tyler County’s OEM mobile command trailer nears completion. Don Collins, an OEM volunteer, said when the trailer is finished in January, it would have systems in place for radio communication, weather monitoring and mapping needed to coordinate efforts such as search and rescue operations. Collins said the trailer will be able to assist the county’s 911 Center as well as serve as a base for medical professionals to provide aid.

“We’ve come a long way,” Collins said. “Hopefully by January, the mobile command trailer should be operational.”

Cooper added, “The trailer could help the oil well industry.”