Sign In | Create an Account | Welcome, . My Account | Logout | Subscribe | Submit News | Home RSS

Disaster Ready: County government prepares for mass flood scenario

May 26, 2017
Vanessa McGuigan - Chronicle staff , Shepherdstown Chronicle

Jefferson County government officials and private industry representatives were on hand Tuesday at the National Conservation Training Center to participate via telecast with other jurisdictions nationwide with the purpose of discussing protection, prevention, mitigation response, mass care and economic recovery in a scenario of a 100-year flood that would overwhelm the Potomac River and its tributaries.

Much of Shepherdstown and surrounding areas were affected in the scenario, including downtown and points beyond.

The four-hour meeting was a Virtual Table Top Exercise run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) from the FEMA Emergency Management Institute in Emmitsburg, Maryland, with Keith Gillan from U.S. Customs and Border Protection's Advanced Training Center in Harpers Ferry as the facilitator.

Article Photos

Chronicle photo by Vanessa McGuigan

Participants from various agencies and industries study the situation manual for a 100-year flood.

Thirty-one participants from 21 agencies worked through three modules - the initial incident, the extended response and the recovery - carefully weighing logistical issues.

The conditions given were that six inches of rain had fallen on ground that had been previously saturated, with debris piling up at bridges and bends along small rivers and streams. Water had risen to dangerous levels and many roadways were impassable. Dozens of motorists had been trapped inside or atop their vehicles. Downed telephone poles, electrical lines and flooded transformers knocked out power to much of Jefferson County, leaving streets that were passable dark and hazardous.

Emergency dispatchers were receiving an average of 140 calls per hour, and there were multiple dispatches in which ambulances were unable to reach stranded or hurt individuals.

Steve Allen, deputy director of Jefferson County Homeland Security and Emergency Management, said he appreciated all of the participation from the various groups.

"With incidents of this nature, of course, there would not only be local response, but state and federal response would fall into place," Allen said. "On the preparedness side, we have very well-organized planning and development within the county - from building and engineering of flood plain dwellings to a very good emergency response system, as evidenced by the number of participants we had in the exercise."

Allen also stated that after an exercise such as this one, there is an "after action" report that shows where county government agencies are performing well and where improvements can be made. County officials take the reports seriously and implement changes as soon as possible.

Allen stressed the importance of making a disaster preparedness kit for every one in a household, including pets, and to have a plan for evacuation and communication - especially if communications are compromised due to a natural disaster. Information for planning and preparedness can be found at,, or

Jefferson County Homeland Security and Emergency Management posts updates through their Facebook and Twitter accounts, as well as through the texting service Nixle.



I am looking for:
News, Blogs & Events Web