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.
— January Blizzard Most Costly in County History
Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz announced that in the wake of the heaviest – and most costly – single snowstorm in the County’s history, crews and equipment are ready to tackle tonight’s forecasted snow, and salt supplies are replenished with final deliveries taking place today. The Kamenetz administration increased salt storage capacity by 20,000 tons this year, bringing the total to 80,000 tons of salt stored in 15 salt barns around the County.
The Baltimore County Bureau of Highways crews and contractors will be working around the clock tonight, and for as long as is needed to clear roads for safe travel.
Winter Storm Jonas Was the Costliest Single Snowstorm in County’s History
January’s blizzard brought not just the highest snow accumulations on record, it also topped the charts in terms of the cost of snow removal for a single storm in Baltimore County history. The County has tallied the total storm expenses at $9.4 million dollars. This eclipses the 2010 twin snowstorms, which cost $4 million and $7 million individually.
It costs approximately $54,000 per hour to plow snow from Baltimore County’s 8,742 County-maintained roads and approximately $109,000 per hour to spread salt.
This storm has exceeded the $6 million “placeholder” figure the County listed in the Fiscal Year 2016 operating budget for storm operations. The County routinely transfers funds into this budget line item from undesignated surplus when needed to cover additional costs for snow removal.
“It is important to keep in mind that this $6 million figure is simply a starting point,” said Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz. “We will allocate whatever is needed to ensure public safety for the remainder of the winter. Whatever Mother Nature throws at us, we will handle.”
County Reviewing Communications Protocols for Major Storms
While feedback from County residents has been overwhelmingly positive regarding the job that Baltimore County crews did in removing this historic snowfall, one concern that did arise was the need to increase capacity for customer service calls during storm emergencies. Kamenetz said he has tasked his key staffers with recommending technical and other improvements to enhance the County’s customer service in times of emergency. He hopes to have those recommendations within the next month.
County Provides Storm Updates on Website and Social Media
Residents and the travelling public can get updated information about Baltimore County’s snow removal operations and road conditions on the County website and on Twitter.
The County website provides the latest on road conditions, current plowing operations, winter storm tips and more at the Snowfighter web page at baltimorecountymd.gov/snowfighter, which also includes Twitter updates from Baltimore County Emergency Management. These updates are also available on Twitter by using our Twitter handle, @bacoemergency.
The County Snowfighter web feature 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 we recommend that people check back often for the latest status. State roads and interstates are not included. For information on state roads, please see the Maryland Department of Transportation’s travel advisories and road closures web page at http://www.chart.md.gov/TravInfo/Default.aspx.
TV Show Highlights Black History Month, Snow Removal and Heart Healthy Tips
The February edition of Baltimore County’s half-hour cable television public affairs show, “Hello Baltimore County,” highlights the following topics:
Winter Storm Operations – Get the perspective from behind the plow from two of Baltimore County’s Snowfighters.
Black History Month Museum Tour – Join us for a video tour of the Diggs-Johnson Museum and learn about their educational programs.
Heart Healthy Tips – Baltimore County’s top doc, Director of Health and Human Services, Gregory Wm. Branch, M.D., offers sound advice on preventing and treating heart disease.
To view streaming video of the show, go to the Hello Baltimore County page at http://www.baltimorecountymd.gov/videogallery/hello%20baltimore%20county.
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.
Tuesdays: 12 p.m., 9 p.m.
Wednesdays: 11 a.m., 4 p.m., 10 p.m.
Thursdays: 1 p.m., 8 p.m.
Fridays: 11 a.m., 6 p.m.
Saturdays: 10 a.m., 3 p.m., 7 p.m.
Sundays: 10 a.m., 3 p.m., 7 p.m.