Preparedness tips could be valuable

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 27, 2002

Captain Jim Judkins, public safety officer for the Suffolk Fire Department, works with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and with software available only to people like him, he can provide a wealth of information to local people.

&uot;If you had to buy this program, or one similar to it, it would cost several thousand dollars,&uot; said Judkins. &uot;It’s as elaborate as the programs at the television stations, but it also does a few more things theirs won’t do. I can plug in traffic patterns, evacuation routes, and other information to help us make decisions in the event of weather emergencies. This is made available to us by FEMA and the Virginia Department of Emergency Management.&uot;

Judkins said the software gives him a 72-hour window in which to make plans for the City of Suffolk.

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&uot;We’d start monitoring seriously at 72-hours and we’d start briefing the city staff and making preparations with police and fire personnel,&uot; said Judkins. &uot;We’d make sure they all have plenty of fuel, and make sure all the equipment is in good operating order. As the storm moves closer, you’re constantly working to prepare. We get our &uot;Alpha,&uot; or essential personnel prepared and if flooding is imminent, we move our fire equipment to a staging ground like Obici Hospital’s parking lot.&uot;

Capt. Judkins said if flooding occurs in this city, it usually hits the Kimberly area. That’s where the Nansemond River runs through Suffolk just below the intersection of Constance Road and Main Street. Another &uot;flood prone&uot; area is a six-mile stretch of waterfront property in the northern end of the city. That six-mile strip of property gives Suffolk the distinction of being declared a &uot;hurricane jurisdiction.&uot; That designation is given to only 15 other jurisdictions in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

&uot;Looking at some of the flood maps, however, can be misleading,&uot; said Judkins. &uot;There are some low spots along the tributaries of the Nansemond River and there are two places on Wilroy Road that will flood and there’s a place near Cedar Hill Cemetery on Constance Road that gets flooded when the river rises.&uot;

During hurricane’s and other significant rainfall, the people in the six-mile stretch along the river are advised to evacuate but in some cases people choose not to leave.

&uot;People learn the soundness of their structure and whether their property or the roads leading to their property flood,&uot; said Judkins. &uot;Based on that criteria, we ask them to make the decision to leave or stay.&uot;

People in low-lying areas base their decision to leave on &uot;hurricane preparedness tips,&uot; information published by FEMA. That agency publishes a brochure, &uot;Surviving the Storm,&uot; that is available from Suffolk’s Municipal Center on Market Street.

Capt. Judkins added that he is available by appointment to speak with any group, church or organization on the subject of hurricane preparedness. Call 923-2110 for details.