Birmingham debates emergency timing

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Supervisors also announce rescheduling of 325th Anniversary event for Oct.

By Nicole Brown, Correspondent, UnionvilleTimes.com

BIRMINGHAM — Hurricane Irene not only brought heavy rains and gusts of wind to Birmingham Township, she also stirred up debate within the Board of Supervisors.

Irene hit the area on Saturday, August 27. The township declared a state of emergency the next day.

The debate at the township meeting on Tuesday night concerned the meaning of an emergency declaration and when it should be made. Other than the obvious reason of warning residents to prepare for a natural disaster, the township declares a state of emergency to be able to receive funds from the state to repair the expected damage. If the township does not make an emergency declaration, emergency services will not pay for repairs.

The current issue is when the declaration should be made – before or during the storm. When the state announces a potential emergency, it wants the townships to declare a pending disaster before the actual disaster arrives.

“There’s something wrong with that,” said supervisor William Kirkpatrick. “To declare an emergency before the fact seems insane,” he added, “It’s like Chicken Little yelling, ‘the sky is falling!’”

Although Kirkpatrick has a point, making the declaration early is a “gateway to the money,” according the Supervisor Alfred Bush. The supervisors agreed that it’s all about the money, but is that necessarily a bad thing?

No decision was made regarding when they would declare an emergency in the future; however, Supervisor John Conklin said, “It better be pretty serious.”

According to Lloyd Roach, emergency management coordinator, future hurricanes are only going to get worse. Compared to Hurricane Floyd (1999), Hurricane Irene had less rain and about the same amount of damage. Therefore, declaring a state of emergency before the next hurricane hits might be beneficial to dealing with the aftermath.

This debate will most likely continue in the future – possibly the very near future if the present rain continues.

The supervisors also decided to reschedule the 325th Anniversary celebration that Irene cancelled. It will now be on October 15th, and residents will be receiving newsletters in the mail announcing the new date.

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