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Emergency plans come up for review / March 01, 2018

Call it good timing, a coincidence or twist of fate, but the Code of Virginia requires localities to update their emergency operations plan every four years, and the last update in Halifax County occurred in 2014.

At Monday night’s work session of South Boston Town Council, South Boston Fire Chief Steve Phillips reviewed the updated 2018 Halifax County/South Boston Joint Emergency Operations Plan.

Phillips explained that the quadrennial review begins with a local hazard assessment and review of the prior plan — in this case, dating back to 2014. The plan is revised, adopted and exercised to ensure its effectiveness.

As part of the review, key contact names and phone numbers are updated.

Phillips smiled as he “congratulated” Mayor Ed Owens on being designated South Boston’s director of emergency services and Town Manager Tom Raab as deputy director of emergency services. Phillips is the designated coordinator with Deputy Fire Chief Dwight Spangler named as deputy coordinator.

In the event of an active- shooter emergency, South Boston Police Chief Jim Binner will be in charge — something that Councilman W. R. Snead said he wants made very clear in the plan.

Recently, The Woodview nursing home invited multiple agencies to participate in a “tabletop” active shooter exercise as well as a simulated fire scenario. Phillips said that the exercises provided valuable feedback and highlighted the good and the bad of the existing plan.

Interim Councilman Michael Byrd wanted to know if a list of liaisons, with contact information, is included in the plan, and if the designated liaisons meet on a yearly or semi-yearly basis. Phillips acknowledged that such a list is in the plan and that, although a great suggestion, meetings have not happened thus far.

Town Clerk Jane Jones suggested that the list of liaisons as well as the entire emergency plan could be posted on the Town’s website.

According to the revised plan, the Halifax County Fairgrounds is the designated supply distribution point in the event of a major disaster, and the 911 Center in Halifax will function as the local emergency operations center.

Halifax County IDA has offered use of a large conference room for emergency coordination meetings if needed.

Phillips and Binner fielded a variety of questions from Council members involving officer and teacher training and readiness.

Binner assured council that the “breakdown in communications and procedure that happened in Florida recently would not happen here,” referring to reports that police remained outside the building at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School while a teen shooter killed 17 people inside. Although officers already receive appropriate training, Binner said, in light of the Florida event additional training is being carried out.

Snead voiced concerns about teacher training and general school safety procedures in the case of an active shooter. Binner assured Snead that the county school division is required to do an annual review of safety procedures and part of those procedures involve lockdown drills every few months.

Binner also advised Council members of recent school safety meetings involving law enforcement, fire department, district school personnel, and individual school administrators. Council will vote to adopt the revised Emergency Operations Plan at its next regular meeting on March 12.

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Chief Binner the training academy that didnt teach your 3 of your officers how take control of a handcuffed man cannot be trusted as your active shooter training. I also believe that you must have a policy for and agreement of the expectations of officers and all Halifax cty le officers must be trained to same high standard. Please no more bottom dollar training that leads to settlements out of court. There should be quality mechanical breaching train8ng as part of this including cruisers equipped with chains and hooks to help remove doors...table top walk throughs are a good start but no substitute for annually training the officers should undergo high stress training designed to weed out the cowards on the force and raise confidence of the officers.

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