February Freeze: Archer County Emergency Operations

The February Freeze stranded between 60 and 80 motorists in Archer County. However, Emergency Management officials say they were prepared before the storm with lessons learned from the Christmas Blizzard 2009.

Archer County has a brand new Emergency Operations Center in their brand new jail. That center, along with updated communications, and a watchful eye on the weather, helped Emergency Management in Archer County flow smoothly.

According to the Emergency Management Coordinator for the county, being prepared made all the difference.

"We had a bigger head start on it this time, which I think was a great plus to us," said Kelly DeSautel. "We had more planning time for this than we did back in '09."

This time around, Emergency Management officials, members of the various Fire Departments, the Sheriff's Office, and elected officials, all met before the storm to discuss a plan of action.

"We had all the Fire Departments alerted and staged, making sure they are able to open up warming centers as needed. The Sheriff's Department had enough people out for patrols," explained DeSautel. "Combine the Sheriff's patrols into two person cars to make sure we didn't have more cars out there than needed. And then we just monitored the weather and kept up with that."

During the storm, dozens of people had to be helped off snowy roads and placed into warming centers. Even Archer County's new Emergency Operations Center was transformed into a warming center to help transplanted motorists stay safe.

The county's Emergency Alert System was also used to update residents on a dangerous situation.

"We use a system identical to Code Red, its called 24/7 mass notification and it does the same thing what Code Red does," said DeSautel.

However, a text message wasn't the only thing sent by the county. Social networks were also used to get the word out.

"Who ever following me on Twitter or likes the Emergency Management page on facebook, kind of like you guys on Channel 6, they get that notification. And we found out that we get more response using those, the facebook and the Twitter than we do the mass notification," explained DeSautel. "We try to get as much information out to everyone as fast and as accurate as we can, hoping that they have the means to receive that information."

Even though the snow has stopped falling, DeSautel said the emergency is still not over. He warns all Archer residents to stay indoors, if possible.

If you do have to go out on the roads, pay attention to ice. However, if you get stuck, crews are still on patrol and warming stations will be set up if needed.

Mary Moloney, Newschannel 6