Sandy Hook Elementary School Added Security and Emergency Preparedness

BY VANESSA REMMERS (STAFF WRITER)

DINWIDDIE – Just days after a gunman killed 20 first-graders and six staff members at a Connecticut elementary school, security measures and emergency preparedness climbed higher on the Board of Supervisors’ priority list for the new year.

Supervisors on Tuesday looked to the broadened focus of the Dinwiddie Local Emergency Planning Committee as one way to prevent incidences like the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting from happening in Dinwiddie.

A 1984 chemical disaster in Bhopal, India, that resulted in 8,000 deaths over two days prompted LEPC establishment throughout the country. The primary goal of the LEPC became educating residents about potential chemical hazards and developing emergency response plans.

But after years of natural disasters, fire, terrorism threats and school shootings, Dinwiddie’s LEPC has taken on additional roles. Since its establishment in 2007, Dinwiddie’s LEPC membership has also grown to include 22 state and local organizations, all members of the Board of Supervisors and the county administrator.

“The law says each locality has to have an LEPC, but there is nothing that’s prescribed or legislated as far as how far a local planning committee can go in terms of some emergency preparedness and the like,” said LEPC Chairman Ray Spicer.

This year, the LEPC has set their most ambitious goal yet for reaching out to the community with 30 presentations completed by June 2013.

“The premise was chemical hazards, and it has kind of evolved from there. They voted to be more inclusive of all those disasters. And why not … let’s face it, the incidences of major significance are happening more frequently,” Spicer said.

The LEPC presentation stresses knowledge of emergency plans for different local facilities as well as creating a disaster kit to help be prepared for a minimum of five days.

“We do want to get the message out that there is some amount of personal responsibility,” said County Administrator Kevin Massengill. “In thinking about the incident in Connecticut, parents need to know plans for their home, but also the school’s emergency plans.”

School Board Chairman William Haney said that school emergency plans will not see change, but there may be tightening of school security in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.

“We are doing a survey and seeing what we can afford to do and what is cost-effective,” Haney said.

A security review several years ago implemented some remote cameras and increased lighting, but the School Board could not afford other desired changes. In the next year, Haney said that the School Board is looking at controlling school access and increasing security systems within the school’s physical facilities.

“I was in California, and a lot of the schools were open campuses. And I was thinking, oh my goodness, at least we don’t have that. They need a fence, some kind of physical barrier to keep outsiders out,” Haney said. “We are probably going to take steps in the fairly new future … to implement some kind of security system without being too restrictive.”

The Dinwiddie school system is not the only one of its kind that the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting will effect. According to a statement, Prince George Police Chief Ed Frankenstein, School Superintendent Dr. Bobby Browder and County Administrator Percy Ashcraft are planning to incorporate additional training exercises for school personnel and public safety first responders. Officials are also in the process of re-evaluating existing school crisis policies.

On a legislative level, Dinwiddie Board members wondered what could be done to prevent incidences like the Sandy Hook shooting.

“With the young man in question, mental health and illness is a big issue. We know that there is a lot of mental illness within the jails, but there are so many walking the streets that we still don’t know about,” said Supervisor Brenda Ebron-Bonner.

Adam Lanza, the Sandy Hook Elementary School gunman, has been reported to suffer from Asperger’s Syndrome. Supervisor Daniel Lee felt that more than mental health awareness was needed to combat such shootings.

“We need to look at both gun control and mental health, and that comes from someone who owns guns,” Lee said.

 

Sandy Hook Elementary – The Voice – Tribute to Sandy Hook Elementary School

Hurricane Sandy Statistics

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Hurricane Sandy obliterated many records along the East Coast, from its extraordinarily low air pressure to the storm surge. In some ways it was even worse than a worst-case scenario.

Here is a roundup of some of the staggering statistics.

Hurricane Sandy StatisticsAir Pressure Records:

– Sandy had a minimum central pressure of 946 mb when it made landfall, which was the second-lowest pressure of any storm to come ashore north of Cape Hatteras, N.C. Only the Hurricane of 1938 had a lower air pressure reading at landfall that far north, which was 941 mb. In general, the lower the air pressure, the stronger the storm.

– Atlantic City, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Trenton, N.J., all set records for the lowest air pressure reading ever recorded. At Atlantic City, which was close to the storm’s landfall location, the pressure fell to 945.6 mb, smashing the record of 961 mb, set in 1932. In Philadelphia, the pressure dropped to 953 mb, which broke the old record of 963 mb set during the “Superstorm of 1993.”

What’s noteworthy about these air pressure records is that they show that the storm was even more intense than aworst-case scenario studied by MIT’s Kerry Emanuel and Princeton’s Michael Oppenheimer. They published a study in June that warned of New York City’s vulnerability to storm surge flooding, but the storm they modeled had a minimum central pressure of about 960 mb at landfall. In other words, their worst-case scenario storm wasn’t as intense as Hurricane Sandy turned out to be.

Storm Surge

As expected, the extremely powerful storm surge proved to be Hurricane Sandy’s fiercest weapon, as water overwhelmed defenses throughout coastal New Jersey, New York City, Connecticut, and Rhode Island.

Here are some of Sandy’s most significant storm surges – measured as feet above the average low tide:

14.38 feet – Kings Point, N.Y.

13.88 feet –  The Battery, Lower Manhattan, which included a storm surge component of 9.23 feet. (Put another way, the water level at The Battery rose to 9.15 feet above the average high-tide line.)

13.31 feet – Sandy Hook, N.J. (Put another way, the water level at Sandy Hook rose to 8.1 feet above the average high-tide line.)

The storm surge at The Battery broke the old record, which was recorded during Hurricane Donna in 1960. It also broke the record of 11.2 ft. from a powerful hurricane that struck the region in 1821. Note that the Sandy Hook gauge stopped recording at 13.31 feet, so the actual highest water level was very likely higher than that.

Winds:

High winds affected the entire eastern third of the country, creating whitecaps on the surface of Lake Michigan at the same time that the Atlantic Ocean was still inundating coastal communities in the Mid-Atlantic states. Here are some of the strongest gusts:

90 mph – Islip, N.Y.
90 mph – Tompkinsville, N.J.
86 mph – Westerly, R.I.
83 mph – Cuttyhunk, Mass.
81 mph – Allentown, Pa.
80 mph – Newark, N.J.
79 mph – JFK Airport, N.Y.

Rain and Snow:

Unlike Hurricane Irene in 2011, Sandy did not produce devastating inland flooding, in part because it dropped less rain, and also because the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic had been quite dry leading up to the event. Still, there were some formidable rainfall totals, such as 12.55 inches in Easton, Md., and 11.91 inches in Wildwood, NJ.

One of the most unusual aspects of this enormous storm was the crippling amount of heavy, wet snow it produced in the higher elevations of Maryland, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia. Snow also fell in parts of Ohio. During a media conference call as Sandy was nearing landfall, Louis Uccellini, a leading expert on snowstorms and the director of the National Center for Environmental Prediction in College Park, Md., said he knows of no previous hurricane that also dropped such heavy snow.

Here are some of the highest snow totals:

34.0 in. – Gatlinburg, Tenn.
33.0 in. – Clayton, W. Va.
29.0 in. – Redhouse, Md.
24.0 in. – Norton, Va.