Op-Ed: Protecting the Citizens of Chester County

By Ryan Costello, Chester County Commissioner

Chester County Commissioner Ryan Costello.

Hurricane Irene battered Chester County for two days, placing many in peril. About 7 inches of rain fell, high winds whipped through the county, streams and rivers flooded, roads were closed and thousands of residents lost electric, in some cases for days.

The well-being of many residents was placed at risk because of the fury of the storm. Now is the time to thank the many emergency services workers, fire and police department members and other community-minded individuals for their brave efforts.

The Chester County Emergency Operations Center was opened for 40 hours to coordinate response efforts during Hurricane Irene.  Representatives from the Chester County Health Department, Pennsylvania National Guard, PECO, PennDOT, and the Red Cross were all on hand to lend aid.

The county’s Department of Emergency Services maintained close coordination with the National Weather Service, PEMA, municipal officials, and surrounding counties of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Regional Task Force.  In addition, the Red Cross opened two shelters for the public that stayed open for about 20 hours and provided temporary shelter for roughly 180 local residents.

One of the primary duties of government is keeping its citizens safe. In today’s world, providing necessary services during a time of disaster isn’t always easy. Chester County is lucky to have so many dedicated professionals and volunteers serving our residents.

During Hurricane Irene’s visit to the county, emergency responders responded to about 600 fire calls and 2,300 police calls.  About 30 calls were for swift water rescues for medical emergencies and residents stuck in the flood.

Public transit was shut down in many instances and traveling county roads was impossible and hazardous at times.

When the hurricane departed, work still needed to be done. PECO crews worked quickly to restore power. State and municipal road crews toiled long hours to clear debris from roadways. Workers continued to monitor damage days after the storm subsided. Two county damage assessment teams were deployed to Avondale and Phoenixville to make initial reports.

For emergency personnel to be prepared for all types of emergencies, training must be provided.  In some cases, that training could mean the difference between life and death.  In recognition of the importance of providing proper training, Chester County government has aided in the financing, planning and construction of a new, state of the art Public Safety Training Facility (PSTF) for the county’s firefighters, law enforcement officers, and emergency services personnel.

Currently, the County is coordinating the construction of educational and training facilities, including a simulated tactical village and a fire training area at the PSTF. Advancements in fire fighting techniques continually take place and it’s important that our emergency responders receive training in the most up-to-date techniques, for their safety and the safety of local residents.  Responses to RFP’s for fit-out of the existing building and tactical village construction, are due shortly.

Chester County was ready for Hurricane Irene.  And each of us owes our thanks to the trained emergency services personnel who protected the citizens of Chester County.  The duty of county government to provide and protect in matters of public safety is a critical, ongoing focus of your county government.

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