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Jeff Harvey

Local residents and businesses asked to help improve emergency services in Upshur County

BUCKHANNON – The Upshur County Commission and the City of Buckhannon are asking community members to participate in a survey to help improve emergency services locally.

Jeff Harvey with JH Consulting discussed the Emergency Operations Plan and Hazard Mitigation Plan his company is compiling during the Feb. 8 Buckhannon-Upshur Chamber of Commerce meeting.

“The basic gist of an EOP is the following: Communities around the nation will have some sort of document in place that outlines their preferred response to different risks they and their community face,” Harvey said. “What we want to do is to make that document as direct and easy to follow as possible. We want it to be as comprehensive as possible, and we want it to be like guardrails for large-scale emergency responses that we might have in our community.”

Harvey said Buckhannon-Upshur’s previous Emergency Operations Plan has received sporadic updates over the years, including to the pandemic section, but a full rewrite of the document is due.

“We finally got that project kicked off at the beginning of January,” Harvey told the local business representatives at the meeting. He also asked for their help. “One of the things that is going to be different about the process is that we want it to be way more participative than it’s ever been in the past.”

Traditionally emergency services such as EMS, police and fire have been the agencies driving the EOP, but the local Department of Homeland Security wants to include more members of the community. One big aspect of that is to compile a list of the resources different businesses and organizations can contribute during an emergency.

“We’re trying to bring the capabilities and the aspects that all of our community entities have to bear into the planning process,” Harvey said. “Through COVID, we learned that a lot of our agencies could do a lot of pretty nice things for our residents. We don’t have any of that in the plan and we wanted to make sure this version was a lot more responsive to some of that.”

Harvey said he approached the B-U Chamber of Commerce because the businesses it represents are local and wide-ranging.

“There are things you may be concerned about that face our community, there may be certain risks that you have that are indirect or cascading types of effects that could happen in the community, and we may miss those without your input,” Harvey said. “Don’t be afraid to say, ‘This is what keeps me awake at night’ — severe weather the next pandemic or an earthquake or whatever it could be, and then we can start talking about that in the plan. If we have a community that’s willing to come together as much as this one is but we don’t know what’s keeping all of you awake at night, then we haven’t done a real good job on the plan.”

Harvey is also working with Region VII to update the region’s hazard mitigation strategy.

“The EOP is all about responding to the things that happen, and the hazard mitigation plan is all about projects to keep those things from ever happening,” Harvey said. “The hazard mitigation plan includes a 400-page document, 300 of which are a risk assessment, so it’s going to map out what this community is susceptible to. I’d like to be able to include your comments as to how those hazards affect you personally, your community or the agency that you represent.”

To compile a community element to both plans, a survey has been made available so everyone can express their opinions.

“We may be able to show that from the standpoint of the emergency responder, X, Y and Z are major issues, but that may not align with what our community expects,” Harvey said. “So to give all of those agencies an opportunity to get ahead of the game and to be able to provide the service that their constituents want and need, we want to get that straight from those constituents.”

Read more about the survey on My Buckhannon or access it directly by clicking here.

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