Harford is first Md. county recognized for readiness by weather service program

July 24, 2002|By Ben Piven | Ben Piven,SUN STAFF

Harford County has become the first jurisdiction in Maryland to be recognized by the National Weather Service under a national program to promote readiness for severe weather.

"We truly believe that Harford County is a model for the state of Maryland," said Barbara Watson, the warning coordination meteorologist at the weather service, during a news conference yesterday at the county's Emergency Operations Center in Forest Hill.

The county was designated a member of the "StormReady" program. The designation signifies that the county meets the communication, safety and preparedness criteria that will help residents receive warnings and respond to natural disasters.

"You have to prepare for the worst and expect the best," said County Executive James M. Harkins, who is director of the operations center during disasters.

The weather service has designated more than 400 StormReady counties in 42 states. Each is equipped with a 24-hour alert mechanism and an emergency operations center. Communities must also have more than one way of receiving severe weather forecasts and alerting the public.

"Harford County has been continuously cited by the federal government as a national leader in emergency preparedness," said Douglas Richmond, emergency manager at the operations center.

The center also is designed to warn Harford County's 225,000 residents of accidents at the Peach Bottom nuclear power plant in York County, Pa., and Aberdeen Proving Ground, home to a large military chemical stockpile.

County officials activated the center for five days during Hurricane Floyd in 1999 and for two days after the terrorist attacks Sept. 11.

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