Inside an EOC: Keeping residents informed and safe

By Charlotte Crist - Posted on Aug 31, 2011 - 03:37 PM

With Hurricane Irene dominating major and local newscasts as it lumbered out of the Caribbean and into the Atlantic last week, Mathews County officials and agencies were preparing to launch their first Emergency Operations Center (EOC) to deal with a major hurricane.

Shortly before noon on Friday, the conference room at the Mathews Sheriff’s Office was filled to capacity with representatives of county government, the Mathews Volunteer Fire Department and the Rescue Squad, Milford Haven Coast Guard Station, Virginia Department of Transportation, Virginia State Police, Mathews Department of Social Services, Mathews Public Schools, and the Sheriff’s Office.

Led by Mathews emergency services coordinator Dave Burns, everyone seated at the table or standing nearby was grimly aware of the threat that was heading towards Mathews and its coastal neighbors.

For more than an hour, they listened in on a teleconference call initiated by the Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM) that provided the most up-to-date weather information from a National Weather Service spokesman at Wakefield and gave participating counties all across southeastern Virginia the opportunity to ask questions about the storm’s arrival time, wind speeds, storm surge, tidal flooding and expected rain levels. Mathews County was told by the NWS spokesman to expect wind and flooding impacts "at least as bad or worse" than it had during Hurricane Isabel in 2003.