Richmond to make changes to emergency plan

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – Major changes are coming to the way Richmond communicates with you during an emergency. In the wake of Hurricane Irene and the earthquake - many citizens openly criticized the mayor for not being more visible or communicating during the disasters. Tonight the city has a new emergency response plan.

In Richmond alone, Hurricane Irene toppled more than 600 trees, damaged 72 homes, destroyed two and left the city with more than a thousand tractor trailer loads of debris to clean up.

"We handled the disaster and emergency situation in a good way," Mayor Dwight Jones said.

-After the storm had already passed. But City Councilman Doug Conner and Emergency Management Coordinator Anthony McLean both agree- the city could have done better preparing its citizens for the worst before the storm ever arrived.

"We need to all work together. And this time I think it was kind of a hodgepodge. And that's the reason we're all here today," Conner said.

72,000 lost power in metro Richmond- and the city now admits it took days in some cases to turn back on the lights because of problems with crews not being able to tell the difference between cable and power lines.

"I know there were several situations where people were down for an extra 3 or 4 days just because nobody really knew the difference," Conner said.

The city's encouraging you to make emergency kits now- for any future disaster including a snow storm.

Richmond is launching a new system -- allowing you to sign up for text alerts during emergencies.

And it's planning for six designated emergency shelters north and south of the river. During Irene- the power went out to the only place citizens were told to go.

"We want to make sure we focus in our communication to the front end to our citizens so they understand what they should be doing when the disaster does occur," said McLean.

The city took all of that information and updated its preparedness guides. It also created magnets you can hang on your fridge with all the key phone numbers and information you will need in a future emergency.

Those magnets are free. You can pick them up at the front desks for City Hall or Social Services. They are also available at all community centers and libraries in the city.

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