County response systems meeting national guidelines
By Matthew J. Perry
Delaware County is now StormReady, according to the National Weather Service (NWS.)
At the board of supervisors’ December meeting, Emer-gency Services director Rich Bell and 911 coordinator Steve Finch accepted certification from Dave Nicosia, a NWS meteorologist, confirming that the county has met all the criteria of StormReady, a national service that integrates communication and emergency services to prepare for severe weather.
Nicosia described Delaware County, where frequent storms and floods demand efficient response, as an ideal region for implementing the program. “StormReady is a very important step designed to hold the weather service tied to emergency management,” he said. “I consider [this region] as weather central.”
StormReady in essence is a model that sets requirements for early weather detection, multiple paths of communication, training, education and community outreach. Its success is dependent on several distinct parts working together, including weather detection, emergency services and municipal departments, but it is refined by increased community awareness.
The county has used a reverse 911 call that reaches every household in the county, but only in declared emergencies. “We didn’t send the reverse 911 out in the last storm,” says Finch. But many people were contacted through NYAlert, a state database that reaches residents through text messages, faxes and e-mail. “It’s a fabulous program,” Finch says, but it does require individuals to register themselves.
“I can’t stress the importance of [NY-Alert] enough. You can receive updates for any part of the state, or just for Delaware County. And it takes 10 minutes to sign up,” on the website, www.nyalert.gov.
Bell stated that he was accepting recognition on behalf of many parts of the county government. “It’s a shared effort,” he said. It is also ongoing. “During the October snowstorm some of our emergency communication towers lost power,” Finch says. “So we corrected that problem. But there are a lot of moving parts.”
The StormReady program was created in 1999 and now involves over 1,400 communities countrywide, with heavy concentrations in southern states and Pennsylvania. Delaware County is one of 14 StormReady communities in New York.
During the board’s regular meeting, Middletown Super-visor Lenny Utter announced that the project to generate electricity from methane gas at the county landfill in Walton has made significant progress. “We are generating electricity and putting it into the grid,” he said.
Last December, the board of supervisors approved a contract with the Delaware County Electric Cooperative (DCEC) that allowed the cooperative to extract and convert methane that is trapped beneath solid wastes deposited in the landfill. In return, the county will receive 20 percent of net margins generated from the sale of the electricity to the power grid, and a yearly rental payment.
DCEC CEO Greg Starheim states that the methane-electricity conversion “went live” on Dec. 4 and has so far performed up to expectations.
“So far our engines are trouble-free and quiet. We haven’t had any issues yet.” Starheim reports 19 wells have been drilled into the landfill surface, and the gas extracted is measuring 52 to 54 percent methane. He also reported that gas recovery is slightly below projections because deposits close to the surface are not yet being captured as efficiently as those further below the surface that are accessed by perforated pipes.
The project’s revenues will be tallied at year’s end and a check will be cut for the county at the beginning of the next fiscal year, which for DCEC begins in January, according to Starheim. “They’ll receive their first payment in January 2009.”
Before the project commenced, 10 percent of the methane produced in the landfill was flared off, while the remainder escaped into the atmosphere.