Richmond revises emergency plan after Hurricane Irene

Posted at 7:31 PM, Aug 27, 2013
and last updated 2013-08-27 19:31:12-04

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) -- Two years after Hurricane Irene slammed into Virginia, one Richmond woman still remembers the storm's fury --  and what she calls the city's lack of response.

and what she calls a lack of response from the city.

"This was a terrible Hurricane,” said Joyce Miller. "There was no help. No help.”

Miller said her family lost electricity and all of their food in the storm. Miller also said she lost her trust in the city of Richmond -- pointing out how Mayor Jones wasn't visible in her South Richmond neighborhood.

"He wasn't out in the community,” said Miller. “He wasn't out checking on anybody. He didn't care. He really didn't care. "

City leaders even criticized the mayor and his team for its lack of response before, during and after the storm. In fact, some questioned communication about shelters, bus transit and food distribution, saying many Richmonders had no idea what help was available.

When asked why the city was not prepared for Hurricane Irene, the director of Richmond’s Department of Emergency Management admits communication was not as strong as it could have been.

Since then, Emergency Management Director Anthony McClean said the city has revised its emergency operations plan.

“Unfortunately, for those citizens who didn’t have a battery-operated radio, they couldn’t get the information in a timely manner,” said McClean.

Some of the changes to the plan include Richmonders being notified five days ahead of a predicted storm, instructed about how to deal with prolonged power outages and what shelters and transportation will be available.

“Citizens really don’t want to stay in the shelter. They want to be able to charge up their mobile devices. They want to be able to take a hot shower and get a hot meal,” said McClean. “And that’s what we want to provide for them.”

After the storm, Dominion Virginia Power is also working with localities to identify huge trees near power lines, which is the main cause of power outages.

“Every Hurricane. Every storm we experience is a learning experience,” said Dominion Virginia Power's David Botkins.

“It is the number one cause of power outages in our system. Are tree limbs falling on to power lines. So, by training in advance and being pro-active about it, we can minimize a tree limb falling on a line causing an outage during a storm event,” said Botkins.

Dominion Virginia Power said they will call in power crews from outside to help out before the storm hits.

And Dominion, like the City of Richmond, is constantly holding drills to improve its employees when it comes to response times and updating technology.

Both advise residents to have a five-day supply of water, non-perishable foods, first aid kit, flash lights and battery-operated radio.