GRACETON — Pretend for a minute that the weather is crummy, real bad.
OK, pretend it’s worse than it already is.
That’s what Center Township municipal leaders and their counterparts throughout Indiana County are doing today. It’s part of the Severe Weather Awareness Week activities coordinated statewide by the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency and in each county by local emergency officials.
The drill this year is somewhat scaled back from the event put together in the past, according to Harold Lockard, the emergency management coordinator for Center and Armstrong townships.
“This year we have to make up our own scenario,” Lockard told the Center Township board of supervisors at their monthly meeting Monday afternoon. “911 has been doing it for us, call(ing) us and tell(ing) us we have some flooding, for example, but now we have to make it up and send the report in to them.”
So at township and borough offices, workers are testing what they’d do in case of tornadoes, storms, blizzards or other weather calamities.
Though they won’t dispatch workers with trucks to clear their roads, Lockard and the Center Township supervisors will review the steps they’d take to assess damage, coordinate with fire department and utility companies, arrange for public shelters, and prioritize the problems that need to be solved.
Indiana Regional Medical Center officials will run through their checklists today, too, said safety and security Director Danny Sacco.
Part of the drill is to evaluate response to a pandemic, he said. Hospital officials will diagnose what illness might be spreading and practice how to make proper requests for help from Indiana County Emergency Management.
But like the townships, it’s a communication test for the hospital.
“We don’t move anybody around or disrupt regular service,” Sacco said. “It’s a command and control process.”
While today’s event is mainly a test of communications, township officials are using the event to promote a special-needs list that helps officials know where help is critical.
“If you know anyone in the township that has a disability — someone who has to be on oxygen, uses a wheelchair or is hard of hearing — we can add their names to the system at 911,” Lockard said.
Names on the list are kept confidential, he said, but the township is required to maintain the list as part of the emergency plan. It allows responders to know where they would find people with mobility or communication problems who need assistance in an evacuation, for instance.
“We have to have that in our plan,” Lockard said. “A lot of people on oxygen have units that plug in. And when the power goes off, they have no oxygen. But we need to know that so this can be a No. 1 priority to get electric power back.”
Center Township residents may contact Lockard at (724) 479-2848 to be added to or removed from the special-needs list.
In other business, the supervisors reported that some township roads may be under construction this summer because of natural gas well development in the area.
XTO Energy will be improving sections of Simone, Allison and Nehrig roads to accommodate heavy Marcellus shale well-drilling equipment, the supervisors said.
The road work is now in the design phase.
No dates have been scheduled for the road work, which will be performed at company expense, according to the supervisors.