Just a touch away

ELKINS – Though this winter’s weather seems to be in a milder pattern for the time being, the Randolph County Office of Emergency Management is prepared for the worst.

Jim Wise, director of the Randolph County OEM, can now remotely control the system of generators in the county’s fire departments from his office in Elkins.

The generators were purchased by the Randolph County Commission, many of them in 2012 and 2013, for use during emergencies, so that the county’s fire departments can be used as heating or cooling centers for the public during any future power outage.

“The (June 2012) derecho storm really was a wake-up call for us,” said Randolph County Commissioner Mike Taylor. “After that we performed a needs assessment. We started talking about getting generators for the local fire departments. And then Super Storm Sandy happened and people were without power again for an extended amount of time. That really sealed the decision-making process.”

Taylor said the generators were bought and installed in nine fire departments across the county, as well as the Mill Creek Nutrition Center and the Harman Health Center.

“It took about six months to get everything done,” Taylor said. “The Commission is happy to say that the generators are up and running.”

Wise helps control the generators through a web-based program named Omnimetrix that allows him to remotely monitor the status of each of the generators from his office or from his smart phone.

“Most of the generators are connected through cell phone towers. Others in areas that don’t have cell service are connected to a satellite link,” Wise said.

“We were also able to retrofit older generators at those locations to allow us to monitor those as well.”

The system allows Wise to turn each of the generators on and off, shows him how long each has been running and informs him of any maintenance issues – all by remote cellular or satellite connection. If there is a technical or mechanical problem, Wise said that it is easy to get technicians on site relatively quickly so they can fix it.

The system has been in place since November 2013, and though no major power outage has occurred in that time, Wise says officials are ready to respond if and when one does.

“The system is so much more efficient,” Wise said. “It pays for itself. It gives us accountability and allows us to be ready to go should anything happen.”