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Erie County departments of Public Works, Emergency Services join partners to emphasize winter preparation

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Thu, Nov 8th 2018 06:15 pm
A high-lift tractor loads salt into the back of an Erie County snowplow in anticipation of upcoming winter weather. Officials gathered at the county Department of Public Works highway barn on Harlem Road in Cheektowaga on Thursday to emphasize planning, preparedness, and safety as winter approaches.
A high-lift tractor loads salt into the back of an Erie County snowplow in anticipation of upcoming winter weather. Officials gathered at the county Department of Public Works highway barn on Harlem Road in Cheektowaga on Thursday to emphasize planning, preparedness, and safety as winter approaches.
Poloncarz, Neaverth join Niagara International Transportation Technology Coalition to highlight county, personal preparation; county retains National Weather Service 'Storm Ready' designation, is honored by NWS as Weather-Ready Nation Ambassador
On Thursday, Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz was joined by Emergency Services Commissioner Daniel Neaverth Jr., Deputy Commissioner of Highways Charlie Sickler, and Niagara International Transportation Technology Coalition (NITTEC) Executive Director Athena Hutchins to emphasize planning, preparedness and safety as winter approaches. Snowplows, salt piles and emergency vehicles provided the backdrop at the county's Harlem Road Public Works barn in Cheektowaga as officials highlighted county preparations for upcoming winter weather and stressed the importance of individuals doing the same.
"Our Department of Public Works will be ready to handle whatever 'Old Man Winter' throws at us this year with salt in the barns, new vehicles in the plow fleet and heavy-duty snowblowing equipment to deploy if and when necessary. Emergency Services is also prepared and ready to assist as necessary when the weather turns bad, but now is the time for residents to do their part," Poloncarz said. "As a storm-ready community, we recognize the importance of readiness, and so we are encouraging residents and motorists to take some time now, before the weather gets too bad, to prepare themselves and their vehicles. If an emergency strikes, this preparation could save a life."
Five new Volvo plow trucks will be added to the Public Works fleet this year and will be in service by the second week of December; these new vehicles are in addition to the 25 dump trucks the Poloncarz administration has added to the Highway Department's fleet since 2012. In addition, the county's snow-fighting arsenal includes three snowblower attachments for high-lift vehicles, which will be strategically located in the event of storms. These high-lifts would be deployed to locations ahead of a snow event to clear multiple feet of snow, if necessary. Erie County's 15 storage facilities are currently storing approximately 20,000 tons of salt for potential winter usage, with sand barns also filled to be mixed with salt in rural areas.
"Last year, our first major snow event happened on Dec. 4, so we are ready a bit earlier this year," Sickler said. "We have been paving roads and doing as much road work as possible up until now, but our crews are now changing gears and will be ready for whatever Mother Nature has in store."
The DPW highways' division is also making use of enhanced technology in combatting winter snows. The use of online mapping tools allows the department to include a constantly updated overlay of driving bans by town or village in an online format on both the Erie County website and the Ready Erie app. Highway districts will be able to annotate the map to indicate if roads are open (green), restricted (yellow) or closed (red), ensuring valuable information is being pushed live and in a timely manner to the public.
In September 2016, Erie County unveiled the free "Ready Erie" app to allow county residents to create a personalized emergency preparedness plan. In addition to completing a plan, the multipurpose app allows users to receive critical weather, news, information and emergency alerts through push notifications, locate Erie County's emergency shelters, and view up-to-date evacuation route maps. Users who create a personalized emergency plan are able to store the plan on their device to share with family and friends. Every individual's plan will include an emergency supply kit checklist tailored to their needs; a customized emergency food supply shopping list; an emergency communications plan to notify loved ones of the individual's status; and information to prepare a home for impending disaster.
Neaverth Jr., added, "I'm repeatedly asked if there's a single thing citizens can do to prepare, and I always respond, 'Have a plan.' Preparing for winter events is a team effort and the public is a key player. The ability to develop a step-by-step emergency plan customized specifically for your family is just a free download away."
The app can be downloaded from the Erie County website at http://www2.erie.gov/ under the "Online Services" tab. The Ready Erie app is available on all major platforms.
Erie County's recognition by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's ("NOAA's") National Weather Service as being StormReady confirms The county continues to meet a stringent set of storm warning reception and information dissemination criteria, enabling prompt identification of potential weather hazards as well as speeding distribution of necessary warning information. The Weather-Ready Nation Ambassador is a NOAA initiative designed to strengthen partnerships with external organizations toward building community resilience in the face of increasing vulnerability to extreme weather and water events. WRN Ambassadors serve as change agents and leaders in their community, inspiring others to be better informed and prepared and, thus, helping to minimize, mitigate or avoid the impacts of natural disasters.
"Driving in the winter can be difficult, and it's wise to plan ahead and be ready before you go out," Hutchins said. "Preparation can make all the difference, and all motorists should take some time to ensure that they and their vehicles are ready."
NITTEC's mission is to improve mobility, reliability and safety on the regional binational multimodal transportation network through information sharing and coordinated management of operations. The coalition operates a traffic operations center (TOC) 24 hours a day, seven days a week that monitors traffic and informs the public - as well as the member agencies, stakeholders and first responders - about traffic situations.
NITTEC also provides a winter travel tip preparedness video, which can be viewed HERE or by visiting https://www.nittec.org/.
For more information on the Erie County Department of Public Works, visit http://www2.erie.gov/dpw/; or on the Erie County Department of Emergency Services, visit http://www2.erie.gov/emergencyservices/.

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