Carroll County residents have much to be thankful for, and earlier than normal this holiday season.
Not only do we have a wonderful place to live, but most of this beautiful countryside was spared from the worst of the devastation and destruction that Hurricane Sandy could have brought to us. We were lucky, and we hope and pray that those who were more directly impacted will be safe and warm while their cities and states rebuild.
While thrilled that we were less impacted, it's important that we recognize the tremendous work done by Carroll's emergency services personnel throughout the event.
Carroll County residents can be very proud of the men and women that plan and respond to emergency situations such as these. They are true professionals who know what to do in such emergencies, and by careful planning and preparation help keep Carroll County safe and sound.
The preparation for Sandy started days before the storm was expected to arrive. Emergency plans were implemented. Declarations were made and the coordination began. County emergency personnel became a hub of coordination and collaboration.
Long before Sandy started its westward journey, the county's Emergency Operations Center was open. The EOC was a beehive of activity as people prepared for Frankenstorm.
Over 14 different local and state agencies and organizations were on hand to monitor and respond to whatever the storm would throw at Carroll. Emergency management staff functioned as a well-oiled machine. Monitoring stations were staffed 24 hours a day from midday Sunday until well after the storm passed. Throughout the entire storm these people received information from their sources - sometimes employees out in the field and sometimes citizens - relaying the information appropriately to deal with each challenge.
As Sandy blew through town, the EOC staff toiled. For example, as information came in about downed trees, power lines or flooded roads, the roads staff would dispatch a road crew and relay the information to the BGE Representative in the room while the Sheriff's office would send a deputy to close the road until the appropriate crew could finish their work.
Meanwhile, the road closure database was updated for internal use and tracking, and communicated to the public through the county website.
The collaboration between the various local agencies was tremendous. Everyone was part of the team. You could probably guess some and maybe most of the agencies represented and working to protect the safety and security of Carroll's residents, but some were less obvious.
Two veteran radio operators worked shortwave radios communicating with the shelters and others, maintaining a second line of communication just in case more modern technologies were to fail.
Citizen Services personnel provided Carroll's known vulnerable seniors with meals to weather the storm in case service providers were not able to reach these folks for an extended period of time.
All the police forces within the county, Sheriff, state and towns were working extra shifts.
All 14 fire companies were represented and on alert to respond to any emergency need, and one fire company's auxiliary volunteered to provide three hot meals every day for the people now "living" in the EOC.
The National Guard was in place and ready to react when necessary. Department of Social Services, Department of Health, American Red Cross, Baltimore Gas & Electric, Carroll County Departments of Parks & Recreation, Information Technology Support, Human Resources and Public Works including Roads, Utilities, Facilities, Landfill, Engineering, Fleet and GIS services were all in place monitoring the situation around the county throughout the storm. Even Payroll and Accounting got into the act, making sure that the proper systems were in place so county staff would get paid on time. Almost 600 people worked through the storm. Every detail was thought of, every situation was managed and everyone worked as a team.
Everyone in Carroll should be proud of the work, planning and preparation that leapt into action as Hurricane Sandy approached. County government can't prevent a tremendous storm from affecting the lives of its residents, but it certainly can manage the response and the resources brought to bear to confront what Mother Nature sends our way.
After having seen the level of dedication, commitment and cooperation present in the EOC which never waned for days on end, I can attest that Carroll County truly is a very special place to live.
Roberta Windham is a spokeswoman for Carroll County government.