In the event of a major emergency, Prince George’s County officials said they rely on media outlets to help get information to residents, which makes access to media reports essential, even if there’s a power outage.
“We’ve been telling people since [Sept. 11, 2001] to make sure you have a battery-operated radio,” said Reginald Parks, director of the Office of Emergency Management. “Radio stations will be providing information.”
The county also has the ability to send automated calls, known as robo-calls, to all landline numbers, listed and unlisted. To keep the message brief, the automated calls most likely would instruct residents to turn to TV and radio stations for more details, Parks said. He cautioned the system would be hindered if landline phone service was damaged.
Community Emergency Response Teams, neighborhood-based volunteer groups trained in disaster preparedness, will be placed on stand-by if there is an emergency. Once the situation is assessed, these teams may be mobilized to perform tasks such as administering first aid, organizing shelters and signing-in evacuees.
Eighteen teams, with a total of 1,921 volunteers, have been established around the county so far, according to the county’s office of homeland security.
CERT volunteers also would play an important role in keeping residents informed of the situation and going door-to-door to check on neighbors, Parks said.
“The CERT people know the community better than the county does,” Parks said. “They’re our eyes and ears.”
The volunteer teams would be used to augment the door-to-door efforts of first-responders, and police also could use loudspeakers in their vehicles to convey information as they drive, Parks said.
To provide more specific alerts, the county is ramping up its Alert Prince George’s program, a system of text message and email alerts that would allow residents to sign up to receive information specific to areas of their choosing, Parks said. There is no charge to sign up for the system, but some cellphone carriers may charge standard text message rates.
A version of the system already is online and available through the county’s website, but so far only has been marketed to county employees. Outreach to residents will begin after additional server capacity for the system is installed over the next few weeks, Parks said.