Some things were done right. Some could be improved upon.
That's the assessment that city Bureau of Fire Chief C. Dean Heinbach delivered Tuesday to City Council's public safety committee in regard to the flash flood of July 28.
"We need to explore a back-up form of dispatching calls from county 911 to the fire emergency operations center," he said.
Heinbach views a need for police, fire, Streets and Parks and codes officials to share in responsibility of emergency management disaster planning and training. He included partnering that plan with Susquehanna Health and other regional entities.
"It would further strengthen our ability to respond both in the city and beyond as most major events affect multiple areas," Heinbach said.
In the July flash flood, eight firefighters were called that Saturday afternoon, but only three responded. The department had limited manpower to operate apparatus and work at the emergency operations, he said.
A flash flood warning did not arrive from the National Weather Service until 6:20 p.m., but a severe thunderstorm warning was issued at 4:25 p.m.
"During this time, our department handled 58 flood-related incidents," Heinbach said. Most of them were natural gas investigations, both inside and outside houses, he said. Other calls were for stranded motorists, flooded basements and fallen trees.
Among the lingering questions Heinbach tried to clear up was a decision not to activate warning sirens.
Heinbach said the rationale for not doing so was based on the sirens possibly causing confusion and an inability to provide the public with an immediate warning message.
He suggested a citywide and/or countywide procedure be established and tested annually.
John Yingling, county director of the Department of Public Safety, said his staff met with Heinbach and city officials after the storm.
Yingling agreed with Heinbach about emergency officials getting caught off-guard.
"This was one of those localized storms," Yingling said. When the city gets 2 to 4 inches of rain in a brief period time and the National Weather Service issued a flash flood warning while the flooding was occurring, there was little else to do, he said.
"We can only relay those warnings to fire, police, emergency management agency personnel as soon as time permits," Yingling said. "That was done."
Yingling said during the flooding he mobilized his staff and kept in contact with city Deputy Fire Chief David Dymeck.
Yingling also said the county has products that will alert through email weather service announcements.
Alert PA is a free service people can enroll in that is available by going to the county website at www.lyco.org, Yingling said.
"It is a way to receive a warning such as alerts from the National Weather Service and Amber Alerts from police agencies," Yingling said.
"At some point in the future," Yingling said, "alerts also will be given across the screen on local access cable on television."