Hall County’s debriefing session Wednesday on the government’s response to last week’s snowstorm produced some new ideas on preparation and reaction to future inclement weather.
“This was a really positive experience for Hall County,” county spokeswoman Katie Crumley said. “Of course, we always have things we can do better and things we can learn from. But I think we all feel pretty pleased with how we responded last week.”
Officials from the sheriff’s office, fire services, EMS, public works and 911 dispatch attended the meeting to share their thoughts and concerns about Hall County’s response to the storm that turned roads into icy, slippery sheets, causing accidents up and down major thoroughfares and stranding some motorists in freezing conditions.
Assistant County Administrator Marty Nix said the first order of business was to review how well communications were coordinated between all agencies.
Hall County brought in additional 911 dispatchers as soon as the snow began to fall to handle the influx of calls coming in about treacherous road conditions. Residents who called the Public Works Department were immediately transferred to the dispatch center, where their reports were logged and communicated to road maintenance crews.
But officials have an innovative plan in mind to better alert residents about trouble spots throughout the county when and if a similar storm strikes.
They want to build a real-time interactive map displaying road conditions that can be accessed online. The map will also help better coordinate response times so maintenance crews can treat icy roads with salt, sand and gravel before they become too slick to manage.
“So that’s one of the things we got out of this meeting as far as communications are involved,” Nix said. “I think it would be beneficial to the public. What we’re trying to do here is to keep the public informed.”
Additionally, county officials said they want to acquire more road signs that can be placed in hazardous areas to warn residents when a snow or ice storm hits. Alerting motorists of dangerous conditions is key to avoiding accidents, they said.
“So that’s another thing we identified during this crisis that we would like to implement for future events,” Nix said.
The county also keeps track of roads that have a greater potential for icing over, such as shady streets, bridges and steep grades, and require more attention during winter storms.
“So one thing that we learned is to go ahead and hit those trouble spots more aggressively in the next future event,” Nix said.
County officials said it is important to make the necessary investments in equipment so they can meet the demands a winter storm places on residents, schools and businesses in Hall County.
Nix said the county has identified the need to purchase 10 spreaders to treat icy roads. Each spreader can pour up to 700 pounds of calcium chloride, and can be loaded onto four-wheel drive trucks and transported to locations in need of treatment throughout the county.
While skid steers, excavators and dump trucks can be used to treat primary thoroughfares, spreaders can help tackle conditions on secondary roads, such as subdivision streets.
County officials said they would continue to meet regularly throughout the year to prepare for additional inclement weather scenarios, such as flooding and tornadoes.
“It is important for us not to rest on our laurels,” Crumley said. “Spring is just around the corner, and that brings a whole new wave of threats.”