Vermont | Damages from storm not enough to trigger Federal damage assessment

After an exhaustive assessment of damages caused by the July 19-20 storm in Vermont, state officials have determined there does not exist enough loss for the state to request a federal disaster declaration. However, state resources could be available to communities to help cover the cost of repairing roads.

The Vermont Division of Emergency Management & Homeland Security (DEMHS), Agency of Transportation (VTrans), Agency of Natural Resources (ANR), and Regional Planning Commissions (RPCs) worked with communities since the storm to determine the monetary value of damages to public roads, bridges, and other infrastructure. The total eligible damage is tallied at approximately $750,000 — short of the $1-million minimum damages the state is required to meet in order to request federal assistance.

“VTrans District Techs visited towns to assess damage and offer technical advice, and RPCs reached out to towns to compile damage reports. The good news is damage is limited — outside of Barre City, Barre Town, and the town of Plainfield,” Vermont Public Safety Deputy Commissioner Joe Flynn said. “However, the news is unfortunate for those towns that suffered damage in the storm as they will not receive federal assistance for repairs.”

Cities and towns with damage are encouraged to contact their VTrans District Technician to discuss potential state emergency transportation grant funding to defray the cost of repairs to public road and bridge infrastructure.

Private homeowners should report any damage to their city or town. Assistance is available in the form of clean-up kits and volunteers. Please call 2-1-1 if you need help; 2-1-1 will compile information for the state and organizations providing those resources. Volunteer organizations will begin helping with the removal of mud and other debris from homes on Thursday.

To qualify for a Public Assistance (PA) disaster declaration under the Federal Stafford Act Vermont must show at least $1-million in eligible costs for local roads, public buildings, and other assets.

Vermont | WNv detected in mosquito pools in Springfield

Three batches of mosquitoes from Springfield, Vt. tested positive for West Nile virus by the Health Department laboratory. This is the first detection of West Nile virus this year in Vermont.

The mosquitoes were collected by the Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets on July 22.

West Nile virus is spread through the bite of an infected mosquito. The first human case of West Nile virus was reported in 2002, and the virus has been detected in every county in the state.

Three people became ill with the infection in 2012.

“Finding mosquitoes with West Nile virus this time of year is not unusual,” said Patsy Kelso, state epidemiologist for infectious disease.  “Late summer is when the risk of human illness is highest, so we’re reminding everyone to talk precautions to avoid mosquito bites.”

A total of 1,581 batches of mosquitoes have been tested for West Nile Virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitic (EEE) beginning on June 4. There have been no positive samples of EEE so far this year.
Mosquito surveillance was increased in response to the two fatal human cases of EEE that occurred in 2012.

Preventive steps everyone can take include:

  1. Limit your time outside from dusk to dawn when mosquitoes are most active.
  2. Wear long sleeves and long pants when outdoors while mosquitoes are biting.
  3. Use insect repellents that are labeled as effective against mosquitoes. Use repellents containing no more than 30 percent DEET for adults and children. Do not use DEET on infants younger than 2 months of age.
  4. Get rid of standing water, and drain areas where water can pool: rain gutters, wading pools, old tires, etc.
  5. Install or repair screens on windows and doors to keep mosquitoes out.

Symptoms of West Nile virus are often mild, but can include high fever. Approximately 1 percent of people who are infected develop severe illness affecting the central nervous system, such as encephalitis or meningitis, which can be fatal.

For more information on West Nile virus, health news, alerts and information, visit healthvermont.gov.

Rhode Island | New initiative to bring wildfire training to rural fire departments

The Department of Environmental Management’s Division of Forest Environment is kicking off a new educational project this summer.

By leveraging grant funding from the US Forest Service with local matching funds from the RI State Firefighter’s League, along with assistance from the Northeast Forest Fire Protection Commission, DEM forest rangers are filming and producing a series of wildfire training videos for release on the Division’s Facebook page.

“This series of training videos will be a great resource for rural fire districts throughout Rhode Island, and we’re excited to make them available through Facebook,” said DEM Director Janet Coit. “DEM works closely with the RI State Firefighters League and the Northeast Forest Fire Protection Commission. The valuable support and assistance these important partners give DEM enables us to provide a host of training opportunities for firefighters in our state.”

Providing wild land fire training to rural fire departments is an important goal of DEM’s Division of Forest Environment. Throughout the year, training is presented by DEM forestry personnel in the form of classroom trainings, hands-on field exercises, and now, social media. The new video project supplements the existing, and more traditional, wild land firefighting training program that is currently offered to Rhode Island’s fire departments.

The use of social media allows the Division of Forest Environment to reach a broader audience of firefighters and improve the public’s understanding of the purpose and goals of the wildfire program.

The first video is part of the Wildfire Tool Series, which is designed to give firefighters a brief introduction into tools used to fight a wild land fire.

This segment examines the Pulaski, an effective wild land fire-fighting tool that has an ax head at one end and a grubbing hoe at the other. The two-minute video features DEM principal forest ranger Ben Arnold, who demonstrates the tool in use. This video is the first of many to come, and viewers can look forward to learning about more topics related to fighting wild land fires as future videos are released.

The RI State Firefighters League was founded in 1898 for the purpose of uniting firefighters for social, educational, instructive, and legislative purposes. Today, one of the primary objectives of the League is to raise funds and award grants to provide training opportunities for RI firefighters.

The Northeast Forest Fire Protection Commission is a compact that includes the six New England states and New York; the Canadian Provinces of Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland; the National Park Service; and the White Mountain and Green Mountain National Forests. Its goal is to provide members a means to cope with wildfires through information, technology and resource-sharing activities.

To watch the first video, and for regular fire weather and fire danger updates, visit the Division of Forest Environment’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/rhodeislandwildfire.

Pennsylvania | DoH to distribute free Potassium Iodide to residents near nuclear power plants

The Department of Health will offer free potassium iodide, or KI, tablets Thursday, August 6, to Pennsylvanians who are within 10 miles of one of the state’s five nuclear power plants.

“If you live or work near a nuclear facility, KI tablets should be an essential part of your emergency preparedness plan and go kit,” said Secretary of Health Dr. Karen Murphy. “KI can help protect the thyroid gland against harmful radioactive iodine when taken as directed during radiological emergencies. But it’s important to remember that the tablets should only be taken when the Governor or state public health officials advise you to do so.”

KI can be taken by anyone as long as they are not allergic to it. It is safe for pregnant women and those who are breastfeeding, people on thyroid medicine, children, and infants. Individuals who are unsure if they should take potassium iodide should ask a health care provider.

During the distribution, each adult will receive four 65-milligram tablets. Children will be given smaller doses based on their age. Individuals can pick up the tablets for other family members or those who are unable to pick them up on their own. Directions detailing when to take the tablets and how to store them will be provided with the KI. Health department staff will be on site to answer questions.

KI is also available for those who work within the 10-mile radius, but do not live there. Employers can contact the Department of Health at 1-877-PA-HEALTH to make arrangements to pick up tablets for their entire workforce.

School districts within the 10-mile radius have the option of deciding whether to distribute KI for their students. Interested schools work directly with the department to obtain their supply of tablets.

KI tablets are available throughout the year at county and municipal health departments or state health centers located within the 10-mile radius.

Pennsylvania’s five nuclear power plants are closely regulated, secure and well-maintained. The facilities are: Beaver Valley Power Station, Limerick Generating Station, Peach Bottom Atomic Power Station, Susquehanna Steam Electric Station, and Three Mile Island Generating Station.

KI tablets will be available between 2:00 PM and 7:00 PM on August 6 at the distribution sites below. No appointments are necessary.

Beaver Valley Power Station

  • Center at the Mall, 284 Beaver Valley Mall Blvd., Monaca

Limerick Generating Station

  • Keystone Fire Company, 240 N. Walnut St., Boyertown

Peach Bottom Atomic Power Station

  • Peach Bottom Community Center, 5 Pendyrus St., Delta
  • East Drumore Township Building, 925 Robert Fulton Highway, Quarryville

Susquehanna Steam Electric Station

  • Butler Township Community Center, 415 W. Butler Drive, Drums
  • Luzerne County Community College, Public Safety Training Institute, 1333 S. Prospect St., Nanticoke
  • Salvation Army, 320 W. 2nd St., Berwick

Three Mile Island Generating Station

  • Fairview Township Fire Department, 340 Lewisberry Road, New Cumberland
  • Londonderry Township Building, 783 S. Geyers Church Road, Middletown
  • Masonic Village, Freemasons Cultural Center, 1 Masonic Drive, Elizabethtown
  • Mohler Senior Center, 25 Hope Drive, Hershey
  • Union Fire Company No. 1, 201 York St., Manchester

The Montgomery County Health Department is also offering KI tablets at the following location from 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM on August 6:

Limerick Generating Station

  • Pottstown Health Center, 364 King St., Pottstown

Pennsylvania | DoH reports first human case of WNv for 2015

Pennsylvania’s first probable human case of West Nile Virus (WNV) infection in 2015 has been detected. A Venango County woman was hospitalized due to WNV. She has since been released from the hospital and is recovering at home.

The departments of Health and Environmental Protection strongly recommend that all residents minimize their exposure to mosquitoes.

“Detecting the first human case serves as a great reminder for Pennsylvanians to take the proper precautions when they are outside or near areas where mosquitoes are prevalent,” Secretary of Health Karen Murphy said. “There are some simple steps you can take to protect yourself and your loved ones from mosquito-related diseases.”

Although mosquitoes can bite at any time of day or night, they are most active at dawn and dusk. When outdoors, people can avoid mosquito bites by properly and consistently using DEET-containing insect repellants and covering exposed skin with lightweight clothing. To keep mosquitoes from entering a home, make sure window and door screens are in place and are in good condition.

The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) conducts regular surveillance and control to manage mosquito populations around the state. So far, DEP has detected WNV-infected mosquitoes in 25 counties.

“DEP monitors the mosquito population across Pennsylvania,” said DEP Secretary John Quigley. “Today’s announcement serves as a reminder that all Pennsylvanians should take precautions to protect against mosquitoes. Using a personal insect repellant or staying indoors during dawn and dusk will help prevent exposure to mosquitoes.”

The mosquitoes that transmit WNV breed in areas with standing and stagnant water. These areas can include urban catch basins, clogged gutters, discarded tires, poorly maintained swimming pools, flower pots and other types of plastic containers.

Simple steps to eliminate standing water around the home include:

  • Remove tin cans, plastic containers, ceramic pots, discarded tires or any object that could collect standing water. Drill holes in the bottom of recycling containers left outdoors.
  • Have roof gutters cleaned every year, particularly if the leaves from nearby trees have a tendency to clog the drains.
  • Turn over plastic wading pools and wheelbarrows when not in use.
  • Do not let water stagnate in birdbaths.
  • Aerate ornamental pools, or stock them with fish.
  • Clean and chlorinate swimming pools, and remove standing water from pool covers.
  • Use landscaping to eliminate standing water that collects on your property.
  • Treat standing water that cannot be eliminated with Bti products which are sold at outdoor supply, home improvement and other stores. Bti is a natural product that kills mosquito larvae, but is safe for people, pets, aquatic life and plants.

DEP will continue to survey affected communities to monitor mosquito activity and WNV. DEP biologists have initiated a survey of the mosquito population to determine the risk for further human illness. If necessary, adult mosquito populations will be reduced. These efforts will continue through October.

For a fact sheet on WNV, including symptoms, please visit the Department of Health’s webpage, http://www.health.pa.gov/ , and click on “West Nile Virus Fact Sheet” under “Hot Topics.”

For more information, including current WNV test results for mosquitoes, birds and horses, visit www.westnile.state.pa.us and click on ”Surveillance Maps and Tables,” or call 1-877-PA HEALTH.

Pennsylvania | State agencies urge residents to be prepared for severe weather

August starts the height of hurricane season and the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, Department of Health and Insurance urge residents to always be prepared for the possibility of severe weather.

“We want to remind people to be prepared,” said Pennsylvania Emergency Management Director Richard D. Flinn. “Don’t wait for severe weather; get prepared now for you, your family and your pets.”

Families should prepare for two scenarios in the event of severe weather: to remain in their homes during the duration of a storm or to evacuate if it is recommended by local authorities.

Residents should always have enough provisions in their homes to last at least 72 hours because help from emergency responders may not be immediately available when severe weather strikes.

Other disaster preparedness supplies to have at the ready include:

  • Flashlights and extra batteries;
  • Portable, battery-operated radio and extra batteries;
  • First aid kit and manual;
  • Emergency food and water;
  • Non-electric can opener;
  • Essential medicines/prescriptions;
  • Cash, credit cards and important legal documents; and
  • Sturdy shoes.

If residents are recommended by local officials to evacuate, they should do so without hesitating and should take important documents with them, including:

  • Checkbooks;
  • Driver’s license;
  • Credit card information;
  • Birth certificates;
  • Social Security cards; and
  • Other forms and documents proving ownership/identity.

Always remember that it’s very important to avoid floodwaters. They can be toxic because they might contain sewage, hazardous chemicals, or sharp objects like glass or metal fragments. Floodwaters can also lead to disease, injuries, and infections.

Also, if your house gets flooded, make sure you know what to do to protect yourself and your loved ones from dangerous mold. If your house has been closed up for several days, you should presume your home has been contaminated with mold and take appropriate steps.

“Reviewing your homeowners’ insurance policy to make sure you have the coverage you need is a good idea,” said Teresa D. Miller, commissioner, Pennsylvania Department of Insurance. “Expensive items, such as jewelry, electronics, or collectibles may exceed the limits of your coverage, and protecting them may require an additional policy.”

Miller also emphasized the difference between replacement cost and actual cash value in homeowners’ policies. Replacement cost is the amount it would take to replace or rebuild your home or repair damages with materials of similar kind and quality, without deducting for depreciation. Actual cash value is the amount it would take to repair or replace damage to your home after depreciation. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) recommends insuring your home for at least 80 percent of its replacement value.

Understanding your policy will also help plan for any out-of-pocket expenses, such as temporary living expenses if you can’t stay in your home. The NAIC’s Consumers Guide to Homeowners Insurance offers more information about homeowners policies.

Miller also reminded property owners that typical homeowners and business insurance does not cover damage from flooding, and flood policies sold through the National Flood Insurance Program require a 30-day waiting period before taking effect.

For more information about flood insurance, visit www.floodsmart.gov.

To protect your property with a flood insurance policy, call your insurance agent or call 1-800-427-2419 to find an agent near you.

For more information on how to make a disaster supply kit and how to prepare for all kinds of emergencies, visit www.readypa.org or get the ReadyPA app for free to help you prepare.

Connecticut | State reports WNv-positive mosquitoes identified in Waterford

The State Mosquito Management Program today announced that mosquitoes trapped in Waterford on July 20, 2015 have tested positive for West Nile virus (WNV).

These results represent the first positive mosquitoes identified in the state by the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station (CAES) this year. Connecticut residents are reminded to protect themselves from mosquito bites and mosquito-borne diseases.

“The first West Nile virus mosquitoes of the season have been identified,” said Dr. Philip Armstrong, Medical Entomologist at the CAES. “Early to mid-July is when we typically start to see an increase in infected mosquitoes, and this is a reminder for people to take steps to protect themselves from mosquito bites now through September.”

To reduce the risk of being bitten by mosquitoes residents should:

  • Minimize time spent outdoors between dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active.
  • Be sure door and window screens are tight fitting and in good repair.
  • Wear shoes, socks, long pants, and a long-sleeved shirt when outdoors for long periods, or when mosquitoes are most active. Clothing should be light colored and made of tightly woven materials that keep mosquitoes away from the skin.
  • Use mosquito netting when sleeping outdoors or in an unscreened structure and to protect small babies when outdoors.
  • Consider the use of mosquito repellent, according to directions, when it is necessary to be outdoors.

West Nile virus activity varies each year and is difficult to predict. In 2014, WNV-positive mosquitoes were trapped in 15 municipalities; the first were trapped in East Haven on July 16. In addition, last year six Connecticut residents were identified with WNV infections from both Fairfield and New Haven counties.

 Monitoring and risk assessment for WNV emphasizes mosquito trapping and testing results. The CAES maintains a network of 91 mosquito-trapping stations in 72 municipalities throughout the state. Mosquito traps are set Monday – Thursday nights at each site every ten days on a rotating basis. Mosquitoes are grouped (pooled) for testing according to species, collection site, and date.  Each pool is tested for the presence of viruses of public health importance. Positive findings are reported to local health departments and on the CAES website at www.ct.gov/caes.

 

China | Hong Kong lowers response level for MERS to ‘Alert’ – cancels travel restriction to Korea

The Government today (August 1) decided to lower the response level of the Preparedness Plan for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) from “Serious” to “Alert” based on the latest risk assessment of the MERS situation in Korea. The Department of Health (DH) has also lifted the travel health advice to avoid unnecessary travel to Korea.

The response level was raised to “Serious” and the travel health advice was issued to Hong Kong residents on June 8 due to the widespread outbreaks of MERS in healthcare institutions in Korea and the imminent risk posed to Hong Kong at that time.

“The number of new cases occurring in Korea each day has declined significantly since late June. The last confirmed case was isolated in hospital on July 3. The decline has coincided with much stronger contact tracing, monitoring and quarantine, suggesting that disease control measures in Korea are working. According to the World Health Organization, the epidemiological pattern of the outbreak in Korea was similar to hospital-associated outbreaks that have occurred in the Middle East and there is no evidence of sustained community transmission of MERS-Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) in Korea,” a spokesman for the DH said.

According to the current practice, the transmission of MERS-CoV in healthcare institutions in Korea is considered to have ceased as there has been no new case detected within two maximum incubation periods (i.e. 28 days in total) after isolation of the last case on July 3.

“Since the activation of the Serious Response Level on June 8, as of noon yesterday (July 31), 403 suspected MERS cases had been reported to the Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the DH under the enhanced surveillance, and all of them tested negative for MERS-CoV. The surveillance system of local public and private hospitals has not detected any MERS cases so far. We will continue to closely monitor the global MERS situation,” the spokesman added.

“Locally, doctors should however pay attention to patients who travelled to Korea on or before July 31 who develop compatible symptoms within 14 days as they still meet the reporting criteria and are required to be promptly notified to the CHP. We will issue letters to doctors and hospitals on the updated affected areas and reporting criteria,” the spokesman said.

UK | Off-duty NEAS medic plays role of guardian angel for downed biker

PaulSmith

A North East paramedic who came to the aid of a Shildon biker while off duty has been hailed a “guardian angel”.

​Keith Stapleton, aged 53, was on a day trip to Moffat with a friend on 28 June when he came off his bike and landed in a field off the A708.

By pure chance, Paul Smith, a paramedic and Emergency Care Clinical Manager at North East Ambulance Service (NEAS), of Peterlee, was on his way to Moffat Classic Car Rally with his wife and a group of friends, travelling just five minutes behind Keith.​

Paul rushed to Keith’s aid and waited with him until the ambulance arrived.

Keith suffered a broken collar bone and fractured vertebrae but is now recovering at home.

Thanks to some help from his brother-in-law Peter Reed, who works for the trust’s Patient Transport Service, Keith was able to track down Paul and thank him in person when they were reunited at NEAS headquarters in Newburn.

“Paul was on his day off and he didn’t have to stop but I’m so thankful he did,” said Keith.

“His professional and friendly manner kept me calm and comfortable and he kept my spirits up by joking on with me. Most of all, he was my friend when I needed help the most.

“What he did was fantastic and he stopped with me the whole time. He was like my guardian angel.”

“I would always stop,” said Paul. “I think 99% of people would.

“As a paramedic you’re never off duty, it’s in our nature to help people. It’s more than a job, it’s a vocation.”

Paul Liversidge, Chief Operating Officer, said: “Paul is a great example of the type of people we have working for NEAS, who don’t stop caring just because they’re not at work, so it’s fantastic to be able to recognise them publicly in when they go above and beyond in this way.”

UK | NWAS commends young man for helping save his mum’s life

ethan-barnes_227x271A brave young man has been commended by North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) for using courage and quick-thinking to help save his mother’s life after she fell into a river whilst out on a bike ride.

Ethan Barnes, 11, and his mother, Sarah Barnes, were enjoying their bike ride along River Irwell in Ewood Bridge near Rossendale when disaster struck and the banking gave way resulting in Sarah falling into the river and injuring her leg.

After realising his mother was unable to get out of the river, Ethan quickly called 999 for an ambulance, calmly explaining the situation and their rural location to the operator. Ethan helped the operator understand the situation and followed the instructions given to take care of her until help arrived.

Ethan ran to the nearest main road to assist the ambulance crew and Mountain Rescue team in locating his mother whilst ensuring he kept returning to check on her condition.

Paul Roberts, Operations Manager for NWAS said: “When our ambulance crew arrived, Sarah was stuck in the freezing cold water up to her hips and was in danger of contracting hypothermia.

“Ethan quickly directed us to his mother and if it hadn’t been for his bravery and mature response in what would have been a very traumatic ordeal for him, Sarah could have come away with more serious injuries than she did.

“I would like to thank Ethan on behalf of the Ambulance Service for his exceptional attitude and courageous actions which could quite possibly have saved his mother’s life. Well done!”

Paul presented Ethan with an NWAS Junior Lifesaver Award at an assembly at his school, Bacup and Rawtenstall Grammar School, on Friday 3 July where he spoke to classmates about the importance of knowing how to react in an emergency.

Alan Porteous, Headteacher at Bacup and Rawtenstall Grammar School, said: “We are very proud of Ethan and the way he reacted in an emergency.  His cool, calm and mature approach is to be commended in what was a stressful and potentially life-threatening situation.  Well done, Ethan.”

Be well. Practice big medicine.