CENTREVILLE — The Queen Anne’s County Department of Emergency Services explained the details and challenges of the county’s evacuation plans as well as provided a general update during the Tuesday, July 9, county commission meeting.
Scott Haas, DES director; Lori Morris, DES assistant chief of Special Operations; Scott Wheatley, assistant chief of Emergency Medical Services; and Lauren Moses, public information officer for the Queen Anne’s County Sheriff’s Office, informed commissioners of the most vulnerable areas in the case of hurricanes and storm surges.
“Computer models have shown it takes 72 hours to evacuate the Eastern Shore, and our concern is that we only have two or three routes to do so,” said Haas. “The longer people wait to do so, the more plugged those roadways will get and the less likelihood they will evacuate. Many things can happen within that window and forecasts are only really accurate until a storm is relatively close.”
According to Haas, failure to follow evacuation orders could result in being trapped for an extended period of time. He also stressed the importance of an exit strategy for every household.
Morris added that days prior to a large storm, high winds are often expected and that could lead to the Bay Bridge being shut down for dangerous crosswinds. Such a decision is made without prior notice to the county and that could mean additional challenges during an evacuation.
DES even performed an “unofficial poll” via its social media channels where it asked residents of Queen Anne’s County if they would evacuate in the case of a major hurricane event. Of the 220 total responses, 168 would evacuate with 49 opting to stay.
Yet when results were isolated to Kent Island, 51 said they would not evacuate while 49 said they would. Encouragingly, when asked if they had a “safe Location” with family members outside the immediate area, 146 replied yes with only 66 saying no.
During the presentation, Morris also showed a map of the effected areas in case of category 1, 2, 3 and 4 storm surges with much of the low-lying areas of Kent Island under water. In case of a category 3 storm or higher, the majority of Kent Island would suffer flooding.
DES also said the use of the Everbridge system would notify residents of storms via their mobile phone for those who have opted in to receive messages and even calls. Outreach on evacuation planning would also include social media campaigns and live events.
Updates also included a fee of $1.25 on all cellular 911 enabled devices with $0.75 of the total going to the county and $0.50 going to the state. The fee goes toward emergency call processing software, monthly Verizon fees, monthly recurring 911 line fees, fiber optic fees, and monthly maintenance contract fees.
The new fee began July 1.
Vendors for phone service for the next generation 911 have already started meeting with the county with AT&T having met with DES in June and Motorola scheduled to speak with the department in July. A provider for core services will be determined by early fall.
Queen Anne’s County also will be among the first in the state to deploy a text to 911 program along with 11 others counties. The system is already running with messages and locations being transmitted to emergency units similarly to phone calls.
Finally, Wheatley updated commissioners with the number of calls and procedures during the second quarter of 2019.
They totaled 1,954 calls for service; 898 transports; 5,480 procedures; and 2,387 medication uses such as oxygen, aspirin, fentanyl and nitroglycerine. In calls where first responders are required to recognize the signs of heart attacks, Queen Anne’s County EMS garnered the 2019 Gold Mission Life Award.