Baltimore County News
Web feature enables residents to report issues directly to emergency managers
Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz announced that County residents will have a direct line to communicate storm-related concerns to the County’s emergency managers beginning this winter season. He made the announcement during the County’s annual winter storm exercise in the Emergency Operations Center, where representatives from County agencies and regional partners work together to coordinate the County’s response to a hypothetical severe winter storm.
After last January’s record-breaking snowfall and extremely high call volumes that frustrated residents, County Executive Kamenetz directed County agencies to re-examine their constituent communication mechanisms for severe storm situations. At this morning’s press briefing, he announced Stormfighter, a new interactive web-based storm reporting feature on the County website that allows residents to self-report storm-related issues, rather than phoning the Department of Public Works (DPW). This system integrates with GIS mapping applications and provides real-time visual map-based data to assist DPW and emergency managers in responding to severe storms or other localized or regional emergencies.
“We know how frustrating it is to be unable to get through on the phone, so our award-winning Office of Information Technology has created a new web feature that is very user-friendly and is the best way to communicate with us in case of a major storm,” said Kamenetz. “When we experience very heavy snowfalls, it is important that we communicate realistic expectations to our residents that it can take many days until crews can move from the main roads and get into the neighborhood streets.”
In addition, Kamenetz announced that the County has upgraded DPW’s phone system to greatly expand the number of callers held in the queue and to enable quick mobilization of call-takers to respond to any need with little advance notice. The phone system includes a function that will advise callers of their estimated wait time to speak with someone and will invite them to submit their concerns on the website instead of waiting on hold. Kamenetz explained that the new web-based reporting form available to the public is the same form as County call-takers will use to input callers’ concerns.
County officials remind residents that in cases of true medical or other emergencies, they should always call 911. During major storm emergencies, first responders coordinate with DPW and other resources to continue responding to fires, urgent medical needs and other emergency situations.
Real-time updates available on the County’s website and social media platforms
Kamenetz also encouraged people to go to Twitter or the County website for Stormfighter updates. The County website offers the latest on road conditions, current plowing operations, winter storm tips and more at baltimorecountymd.gov/storm, which also includes Twitter updates from Baltimore County Emergency Management. These updates are also available on Twitter by using the Twitter handle, @bacoemergency.
The County Stormfighter web page now provides a link to live traffic camera feeds from the Maryland Department of Transportation’s Coordinated Highways Action Response Team (CHART). It also offers a link to the County’s list of road closures, which provides details on roads that are currently closed due to repairs, accidents, weather or other hazards. This list is updated frequently, so people are advised to check back often for the latest status. State roads and interstates are not included. Information on those roads can be found on the Maryland Department of Transportation’s travel advisories and road closures web page at http://www.chart.md.gov/TravInfo/Default.aspx.
“The really big snowstorms can try all of our patience, and I am pleased that the County is taking these positive steps to better facilitate communication with our constituents during storm emergencies,” said County Council Chair Vicki Almond.
Composting is best option
Baltimore County residents are reminded that raking or blowing leaves and grass trimmings into the gutter or street is unsafe, potentially damaging to the Chesapeake Bay, and illegal.
Leaves in the gutter can lead to fires and endanger children who might try to play in the leaves. Leaves and grass trimmings can also clog drains and, if the leaves do get to the bay, cause algae blooms. Algae blooms absorb oxygen and light that fish and aquatic plants need to survive.
Instead of raking or blowing these yard materials into the gutter, the County suggests that residents compost them. Composting leaves and grass trimmings is an easy way to produce an environmentally friendly soil additive for use in gardens.
Another option for Baltimore County residents is to simply mulch fallen leaves with a lawn mower and leave them on the ground, providing a great natural fertilizer for lawns as the leaves decompose. Mulched leaves can also be collected and used around plants, garden beds, under shrubs and hedges, and under trees. The mulch will keep the soil moist and protect the roots of the plants.
Baltimore County residents who choose to bag their yard materials should put them out where they normally place their trash, in accordance with their trash and recycling collection schedule. Residents are reminded to use paper (preferred) or plastic lawn and leaf bags to set out their yard materials, not trash cans or any other type of container.
For more information on how to handle yard materials at home, residents may visit www.baltimorecountymd.gov/solidwaste or call 410-887-2000.
Show highlights police body cameras, public works, and Holidays at Hampton
The latest edition of Baltimore County’s half-hour cable television public affairs show, “Hello Baltimore County,” focuses on the Police Department's body cameras program, Department of Public Works operations and holiday events at the Hampton National Historic Site in Towson.
Body Cameras – Baltimore County State’s Attorney Scott Shellenberger offers his perspective as the County’s head prosecutor.
ICYMI – In case you missed it, we review some recent headlines from your County government.
In the Trenches Every Day – Public Works Director Steve Walsh shares some surprising stats on the work DPW does to keep our daily lives on track.
Holidays at Hampton – Find out what the Hampton National Historic Site has in store to ring in the Yuletide season.
To view streaming video of the show, go to the Hello Baltimore County page at http://www.baltimorecountymd.gov/Videos/hellobaltimorecounty.html . Click on the menu icon in the upper left of the video screen to select an individual segment.
In addition to online access, the program runs several times per week on Cable Channel 25, in Baltimore County, at the following times:
Mondays: 1:30 p.m., 6 p.m., 10 p.m.
Tuesdays: 12 p.m., 7:30 p.m., 9 p.m.
Wednesdays: 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 4 p.m., 10 p.m.
Thursdays: 1 p.m., 4:30 p.m., 8 p.m.
Fridays: 11 a.m., 6 p.m.
Saturdays: 10 a.m., 12 p.m., 3 p.m., 7 p.m., 10:30 p.m.
Sundays: 10 a.m., 12 p.m., 3 p.m., 7 p.m., 10:30 p.m.
Revised September 26, 2016