If Alan Radcliffe learned one thing in the time he spent in Maryland doing hurricane relief, he said, it was to ask for help when it’s needed.
As Franklin County Emergency Management director, Radcliffe spends much of his time in the county preparing for emergencies. But when the call comes to aid in relief and recovery efforts in another state, as it did in November when Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast, Radcliffe is out the door.
Radcliffe spent about 10 days in Garrett County, Md., the western-most county in the state, he told the Franklin County Board of Commissioners during a presentation Wednesday. The area had several million-dollar homes and ski slopes, he said, as well as a few small communities.
“I learned quite a bit while I was there,” Radcliffe said.
Radcliffe, along with six other Kansans, traveled to Maryland as part of Emergency Management Assistance Compact, which provides state-to-state mutual aid. Radcliffe was the incident commander of the group.
Maryland did not get hit as hard by the storm as New York and New Jersey. Witnessing the destruction in some of the wealthiest states in the country, Radcliffe said, he was surprised to find that no expense was spared to get the states up and running again.
“Anything that we wanted ... or needed, we got,” he said.
With large trees and long curving roads, the crews in Garrett County needed help with tree removal, power restoration and checks on rural residents’ welfare. Through the course of a week, Radcliffe said, crews from the Maryland National Guard, Maryland State Police and the county’s sheriff’s office did welfare checks on each of the roughly 30,000 residents in the county.
“By Saturday (Nov. 3) there were 1,000 workers in Garrett County — 800 of those were utility workers,” he said. “Anything that we needed, if we had an area that had a power outage, all we had to do was ask the utility companies if they could help or where they were at on that.”
Radcliffe said more than 300 utility poles needed to be replaced in the county.
The parallel that Radcliffe drew from his experience, he said, is that local agencies cannot be afraid to ask for help in the event of a disaster. Without the help from across the country that converged on the East Coast, the recovery effort would have been greatly delayed, he said.
“I can see in a disaster of any major size where we’ve got to activate our mutual aid. We’ve got to do it,” he said. “We’ve got to have an incident management team come in, because we don’t have enough people to do what we need to do. And we’re just like 100 other counties in this state.”