At noon on the third Wednesday of each month a group of representatives from local government agencies, local state government agencies, church groups, volunteer organizations, the American Red Cross, the Randolph County Commission, sheriff's office, Huttonsville Correctional Center, board of education, health department, Tyrand Ministries and others assemble at the Randolph County Court House Annex to discuss plans and formulate policies and procedures to be implemented in the event of a catastrophic event. The unheralded group is known as the Local Emergency Planning Committee. In all they do, their greatest obstacle is apathy.
Everyone who is old enough to remember Nov. 4, 1985, remembers the chaos that followed the flooding of that night and the Herculean efforts required to recover from it. One of the major priorities in the recovery efforts was obtaining equipment, supplies and services to move the countless tons of mud and debris that the raging water left in its wake and the restoration of services that were either destroyed or severely damaged. There were enormous health issues that had to be contended with as well. Countless hours of precious time were expended in efforts to locate heavy equipment for clearing and repairing roadways, repairing sewage lines, restoring water service, electrical power, communications, not to mention the decontaminants and disease-fighting agents necessary to protect life; all the things that are necessary to sustaining life.
In an effort to prevent a recurrence of this problem should such an event occur in the future, the Office of Emergency Management on Feb. 18, 2008, issued a public statement on all the local TV and radio stations. It said that within the next few days a survey would be mailed to businesses, service providers, educational institutions, health care facilities, pharmacies, communication outlets, food suppliers, power companies and heavy equipment owners/operators in Randolph, Pocahontas, Upshur and Tucker counties. The survey requested information regarding what equipment, services and supplies they would be able to provide on an emergency basis in the event of a natural or man-made catastrophe for both short-term and extended periods of time. It was hoped that those who received the survey form would respond in a manner that would allow the OEM to compile the information in house. Responses, however, were so minimal that the OEM had to contract a private company to collect and assimilate the data. This was not only a drain on the limited fiscal resources of the OEM but delayed the completion of the project. Fortunately, the information was not needed during the time it took to complete the project. Thanks to the stubborn efforts of the contractor, the project is now nearly complete. Fortunately, the information has not been needed; hopefully it won't be.
The group works closely with the West Virginia Department of Homeland Security in preparing the area and its people both physically and psychologically for the consequences of a mass migration of our National Capitol Region - Washington and Baltimore - should such an event occur. No small part of that preparation is the installation of auxiliary power generators at Elkins High School and Camp Pioneer which enabled them to be designated emergency shelters not only if that should happen, but if we should experience a catastrophic event locally.
The LEPC is also working with the Randolph County Board of Education in a combined effort to make our county schools not only a safer place to study but on ways to protect the students in the event of a threat and to get them out of harm's way.
Headed by LEPC member Glen Koon, the Community Emergency Response Team Program educates people about disaster preparedness for hazards that may impact their area and trains them in basic disaster response skills, such as fire safety, light search and rescue, team organization and disaster medical operations. Using the training learned in the classroom and during exercises, CERT members can assist others in their neighborhood or workplace following an event when professional responders are not immediately available to help. CERT members also are encouraged to support emergency response agencies by taking a more active role in emergency preparedness projects in their community.
Koon is currently working with students in middle and high schools in his continuing efforts to help our youth grasp the importance of the training and taking an active part in community actions in times of emergency. The training not only helps them help the community, it prepares them to help themselves and families should professional first responders not be able to assist them.
These are but a few of the programs that members of the LEPC do to prepare our community and its people to help themselves and their community in the event of an emergency. The public is invited and encouraged to attend these meetings as a means of learning what is being done and what individuals can do to help.
In the 1970s, locksmiths in Denmark shared a technique for applying pressure to the back of lock plugs as a means of opening locks that otherwise couldn't be opened. Out of that technique was born the "bump key" which is posing a major security threat to businesses and homeowners today.
The technique received popular attention in 2005 when a Dutch television show, "Nova," broadcast a story about the method. After the method received further publicity, an American security expert, began to talk publicly in the United States about the technique and its potential security threats.
Simply put, nearly any lock can be opened with a "bump key." The more expensive ones are especially vulnerable and the only ones that are immune are the ones with special built in precautions. Space restrictions do not permit me to go into the details of how it works, but I suggest that everyone who has access to the Internet go online and Google "Bump Key." You will be amazed - and frightened - by what you will learn.