Emergency Unpreparedness

The derecho storm that hit Montgomery County on June 29th exposed a County unprepared to help citizens in a true emergency.

While it is sport to bash government, this weekend we needed the services that our tax dollars pay for. Trees down. Roads blocked. Power out. Traffic lights dark. And what was the most remarkable thing? Traveling through the County, I didn’t see any evidence we even had a government.

Somehow we blew through the snow budget this past winter, even though there was no snow. But hours before the forecast of a flurry, you’d see State and County trucks lined up along the interstates and in parking lots. It wasn’t necessary, but at least there was evidence of a government.

With soaring temperatures and dangerous conditions on the roads, it would have at least been comforting to see evidence of governmental control of the situation. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. I’m not sure where the police were this weekend, but they weren’t directing traffic at dark intersections around Bethesda. And depending on motorists to treat dark intersections as four-way stops? Not working out so well.

What I don’t understand is that our governments have departments of emergency preparedness. If what we witnessed Friday night did not produce an emergency, I’m not sure what an emergency is. Eventually, there were cooling stations opened. Finally on Monday morning, there were police directing traffic at some dark intersections.

But for one very long and hot weekend, we saw what no government looks like.

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A July 03, 2012 at 11:38 AM
My boyfriend got pulled over this morning by a police officer because he had only moved over half a lane (as opposed to a full lane) while the officer had another motorist pulled over. My boyfriend was distracted by the traffic light that is STILL out and noticed the officer too late. $110 ticket later, looks like the police are putting their efforts to good use :\
Bethesda LEO July 03, 2012 at 10:08 PM
As a resident of Bethesda and a County police sergeant, let me echo some of your frustration and attempt to address some of your issues related to the police response to the storm. To the best of my knowledge, the storm front didn't develop until the late afternoon on Friday somewhere in the Ohio Valley and headed through WV and into MD. Local television stations did not start issuing warnings until approximately 8:30 pm which is probably when they started to receive reports of the damage the storm was causing in Ohio, WV and Southwestern PA. The storm hit Montgomery County 1.5 hours later. Once the storm hit, there was a mandatory hold over of all the evening shifts and any specialized unit officers that were working as well. In simple terms, all of the officers that were working continued working into the early hours of Saturday morning. On Saturday, Sunday and Monday officers were called in on overtime, and plain clothes officers were put in uniform to help direct traffic at intersections. On Monday, there were still 400+ intersections that were without power. As a result of the storm, there were a significant amount of traffic accidents, emergency calls for service to check on elderly and disabled residents, etc... Believe it or not, there was also a spike in calls for service for robberies and burglaries as the criminals attempted to take advantage of the darkness. The County Police have done an excellent job doing more with less for many years now.
Bethesda LEO July 03, 2012 at 10:14 PM
Follow-up to my previous comment.... I don't have an answer to the PEPCO situation. I wish that PEPCO would be more forthcoming with their explanation of how such wide spread power outages can occur over an extended period of time and what the best course of action would be to prevent these outages from occurring in the future (other than trimming and cutting down trees.) At the time of this posting, my house is still without power in 20817.
Lisa July 05, 2012 at 06:14 PM
I live in downtown Bethesda and the day after the storm I had to travel to Columbia from Bethesda on Route 29. I can say this there were police officers at every non working light in the Bethesda area directing traffic, which is much more than I can saw about what happened once I got into Howard County. I think that our emergency personnel at least in Montgomery County did an excellent job. The issues are with the power companies the phone companies, and the cable/internet providers. Every time we have a storm and power goes out, whether winter or otherwise, PEPCO comes on the TV and says this was unprecedented, I am sorry but how many times can they use this excuse? Enough already. Oh and they can stop spending money on their public relations commercials and instead spend that on fixing the power issues. Last year PECO was voted the most hated company in the Country, and they are only a local company. I can only imagine what will happen after this.
David Heyman July 06, 2012 at 12:26 PM
Thank you for the background information. By no means was I implying the police were not working hard. The question is where they were directed to work. I read somewhere that a significant number of police officers were at Congressional for the golf tournament. That seems like misplaced priorities.


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