Shelton demonstrates disaster preparedness

First Posted: 4/21/2009

DOBSONEverything in Surry County can be tracked by Emergency Services, whether it be what is the most likely place and time to have a heart attack in the county to where the most traffic accidents occur.
According to John Shelton, director of Surry County Emergency Services, who presented a disaster preparedness program to commissioners Monday night, tracking is a way to provide services more efficiently.
The Web Emergency Operations Center (EOC) program not only helps emergency services, but law enforcement as well, he said. Shelton said every sex offender in the county is tracked based on locations of schools and daycare centers. Law enforcement can also track hot spots where break-ins happen.
Shelton said thanks to the program, when five boys escaped from a group home in Lowgap in January of 2007, Geographical Information Systems were integrated with EOC to notify residents living in the area.
Based on calls that came in from people living in that area we were able to track where the boys were going through community alert, Shelton said as he pointed to a map where he said law enforcement was able to capture and arrest the boys.
Shelton said if a tornado rips through the county, officials have the ability to not only track the path of destruction and which homes were affected, and its victims, but they also have the ability to access building supply companies that have materials that might be needed to get the county back online to provide services, even if the owner or manager is not available.
When emergency shelters have to be put into use, Shelton said, technology now lets them track who is staying in which shelter.
We sheltered 3,200 people in 1992 during a snowstorm. We can now take a photograph of the people staying at those shelters and, for example, if someone is trying to find their grandparent, we can go through those data bases and show them a picture to find out if their grandparent is staying in the shelter, he said.
Shelton said communicable disease outbreaks are a large concern for emergency services.
There are so many things that we are faced with whether its Hoof and Mouth or Influenza or Avian Flu. We have found ways to track these diseases, he said. We have that in place now. We have actually continued that through the health department so that if we have communicable disease outbreak that is reported through a doctors office. It could be a matter of the common flu, but this allows us to actually track it from the doctors office and through our Web EOC program so that we know where those outbreaks are and we can start counting those by districts, zones, wherever they may be, so that immunization practices can be put in place, Shelton explained.
Shelton said one of the most innovative advances the county has made is the EOC Web site. He explained that before the site was available, people would call the 911 center to find out where the fire truck was going.
He said now that the site is in place people can look it up online.
It has been a tremendous advantage to us and really there is less information listed on there than can be heard on any scanner. It just lists the address and what type of call is being addressed. It can cut down on the amount of unnecessary calls that come into the 911 Center.
Shelton told commissioners that should there be a natural disaster or an event that county officials needed to track in order to make decisions, with one phone call commissioners could link up to the EOC and see what exactly is going on.
He said the system is so efficient that people can go online to get burning permits. The Web site even specifies when it is a safe time to burn.
Amber Alerts, which indicate when a child goes missing and Silver Alerts, when an elderly person goes missing, are posted on the site as needed. Surry Countys Most Wanted criminals and links to the sheriffs office are also located on the countys public safety Web site.
Shelton said he is very proud of how each county department has contributed to the success of the public safety systems in place in Surry County. He told commissioners that Surry County is a model system for states and counties all over the United States.
Surry Countys EOC Web site of safety portal can be found at, then click the Public Safety link.
Contact Mondee Tilley at [email protected] or at 719-1930.

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