BUCKHANNON — JH Consulting, LLC will begin working on a countywide Emergency Operations Plan following Dr. Jeff Harvey’s successful presentation to Upshur County Commissioners Thursday morning. After a yearlong response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Commissioners and JH Consulting’s Owner and Operations Division Manager feel that the time is right for a plan of this scale.
Commissioners approved the county’s $10,000 cost of the project, which actually totals $20,000 but will be split by the Upshur County Commission and the City of Buckhannon. Dr. Harvey explained that JH Consulting is taking a phased approach for the Emergency Operations Plan that will eventually be implemented countywide.
The project will be composed of two phases that will ultimately exhibit where the City and County need to be in regard to emergency response. The first phase will consist of collecting data to discover strengths and weaknesses, Dr. Harvey explained. The second phase will involve taking action on the areas in need of improvement that are identified in the first phase. Essentially, this is where they will attack the gaps found in the first phase of the study.
Dr. Harvey explained that they would like to begin with a “roadshow.” The roadshow consists of public and community involvement. According to Dr. Harvey, they will go to each partner involved to learn about their agency and have a discussion. This can also consist of various public engagements, such as town hall meetings and/or online surveys, in effort to receive the public’s opinion. Other agencies that may be involved aside from EMS, police and fire departments, will include input from public health facilities, medical facilities, West Virginia Wesleyan College, the Board of Education, home health and Hospice, social services agencies, the Senior Citizen Center, daycares, and public housing, Dr. Harvey explained.
Although everyone shares the same large-scale goal, Dr. Harvey suggested that individual agencies may also want to learn different things from it with the same large-scale goal in mind. Commissioner Sam Nolte added, “I like the fact you’re doing the roadshow and going to each organization.” Although it is going to be a difficult and complex task, he commented that it will be a huge benefit for everyone if Upshur County can pull off the implementation of a countywide Emergency Operations Plan.
Essentially, the first phase which will cost $10,000, will allow JH Consulting to collect data and assess strengths and weaknesses within the community as a whole. Phase two, which will cost an additional $10,000, will allow them to work on an action/improvement plan for the entire county.
Regarding the timeframe of the project, Dr. Harvey noted that JH Consulting will be able to start as early as they receive a notice to proceed, and each phase will conservatively take 8-12 months. The completion of this project is going to look at ways the community can operate and suggest areas where it can improve its operations. Following the completion of phase two, a phase three is possible to train and execute the Emergency Operations Plan.
A plan of this scale is uncommon and very difficult to execute, Commissioners noted. However, it will be a huge success for the community if it can be done. Commissioner Nolte explained, “Everyone basically says ‘good luck.’ With one municipality and Upshur County being a relatively small county, I feel like it’s worth the shot,” he added. Dr. Harvey concluded, “If we don’t try, we’ll never know… With great risk, comes great reward… There is any number of good things to come out this. If we just take it in bite-sized chunks, rather than a three-year commitment, we have an opportunity to see what some of those things are and maybe provide a more customized assistance to some of the agencies that we have here locally.”
Commission President Kristie Tenney told Dr. Harvey, “We appreciate you restructuring your plan in order to make it the best for everyone.” Congressman Alex Mooney’s District Representative Rhett Dusenbury also noted, “This should be done in every county.”