Be Prepared: OC Hosts Emergency Response Training

Orange County Emergency Services invites you to learn how to be prepared in case of a local emergency.

In January, Emergency Services is hosting a Basic Training Course for residents who want to be part of Orange County’s Community Emergency Response Team (or CERT for short).

It’s free and open to everyone. The training will take place during the week of January 19, with sessions Monday through Friday evening from 6:00-8:30 and a final session on Saturday from 8:00-5:00 that includes a disaster simulation exercise.

You’ll learn disaster preparedness, fire safety, basic medical operations, and more – all to teach you how to deliver emergency response in your neighborhood for the first 72 hours in the event of a disaster.

There are 25 spots available in the course, first-come first-serve. Registration is open now. To get more information and to register, visit

Orange County to Host Storm Spotter Training

A Skywarn Spotter Training course will be coming to Orange County this fall, courtesy of the National Weather Service in Raleigh.

On September 23, county residents can attend a free training class on how to spot weather emergencies and report them to weather services. Trained meteorologists will be instructing how to detect weather emergencies such as thunderstorms, flash floods and tornadoes.

The class will be held from 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at the West Campus Office Building in downtown Hillsborough. There are no costs, prerequisites or pre-registration needed to attend.

Emergency Management Planner at Orange County Emergency Services, Josh Hollingsworth says the course is very useful for severe weather seasons in North Carolina, such as hurricane season in the spring as well as the possibility of winter storms later this year.

“The training is very important because the citizens, of course, can protect themselves by being able to spot severe weather but they can also relay this information to the National Weather Service,” Hollingsworth said. “When people report the severe weather, (the National Weather Service) is able to add that into their warning or verify that the warning is warranted for the area.”

Plan For Power Outages As Ice Storm Approaches

CHAPEL HILL- With up to a half inch of ice in the forecast, power outages are a real possibility in the next 24 hours. Duke Energy’s Jennifer Jabon says additional crews are on standby to respond.

“Right now, here in the Carolinas we have approximately 3,400 field workers, and some of those are crews that have come in from other regions,” says Jabon.

The storm bearing down on the Triangle is expected to dump snow, sleet and freezing rain. Jabon warns that falling tree limbs and ice accumulation could bring down power lines.

“Our focus is always on the safety of the customers, so definitely be aware if there’s any downed power lines,” says Jabon. “Don’t touch them, stay away from them, and we ask that you immediately report any downed power lines you see.”

With snow expected to continue through Thursday afternoon, officials say you shouldn’t expect power to be restored right away.

If the power goes out and you’re using a generator to stay warm, remember to operate it outside and keep it away from vents or doors that could draw in carbon monoxide.

If you lose power and can’t stay warm, Orange County Emergency Services will operate a shelter at Smith Middle School at 9201 Seawell School Road in Chapel Hill.

Call 1-800-POWER-ON to report outages, or, if you’re a Duke Energy Progress customer call 1-800- 419-6356.

EPA Praises CH Fire Department In Gas Leak Response

Pictured: Gas Leak Response; Photo by Julie McClintock of the Booker Creek Watershed Alliance

CHAPEL HILL – The Environmental Protection Agency is praising the efforts of the Chapel Hill Fire Department for the way it responded to Friday’s gas leak at the Family Fare BP off Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard. Questions still linger, though, about  what impact the leak will have on our local environment.

Kenneth Rhame, On-Scene Coordinator for the EPA, says at this point the EPA does not have an official number of  how many gallons of gasoline leaked into Crow Branch Creek.

“Before the spill was contained, the Fire Department had ordered resources like getting soil, rock, piping, and constructed the underflow dam that is just north of N. Lakeshore Drive in order to ensure that the spill was contained,” Rhame says.

Rhame explains that the quick response of the CHFD made the difference in keeping a bad situation from turning into something much worse.

“Normally for the construction part, they will wait for contractors to arrive on site to do that [respond to the leakage]. Here, they used various city assets to get it done. I think it ultimately prevented more environmental impact than what would have happened,” Rhame says.

The Fire Department worked in conjunction with the Chapel Hill Police Department, Orange County Emergency Services and the N.C. Department of Environmental and Natural Resources Division of Water Quality.



The EPA provided air monitoring to make sure that the public and response agencies weren’t being exposed to any harmful odors. The residential areas were not endangered, but the site itself had elevated readings

Rhame explains that Bishop Construction Company was doing renovation work at the BP last Thursday and needed a pump to drain the rainwater from a footing hole connected to a pipe leading to a Town storm drain. When the rain began to accumulate, it caused the footing hole to cave in, and then falling concrete punctured a hole in the fiber glass tank below. The leaking gasoline flowed into Crow Branch, a feeder to Booker Creek and Eastwood Lake.

“Since they had a submersible pump in the excavation, a lot of the petroleum that was released was pumped directly to the storm drain,” Rhame says.

Danny Smith, Regional Supervisor for the DENR Division of Water Resources, believes that Crow Branch was the only body of water affected. His crew was on site Tuesday assessing the current situation. Smith says they are awaiting the analysis of water samples collected from several creek branches but don’t expect to get the results until later this week or early next week.

“One of the things that we are looking into is how much product remained in the tank and how much was de-watered from the sump pump from their excavation. The window of time that the pump was in operation will help us to get a better handle on the volume of product that may have gotten into the stream,” Smith says.

Smith explains that the gas station’s tank had two compartments which hold 6,000 gallons of gasoline each. One of those compartments was breached by the falling concrete.

“So certainly there was product that was released, and there was a lot of product that was available to be released, but not all of it was,” he says.

Rhame says that trace amounts of the gasoline remain in the stream, adding “You get this bathtub effect where the water goes up and down, and you’ll get some sheening along the banks where the gas was caught up in vegetation.”

He expects the total clean-up to last a month, but the active recovery process will take about a week more. He says the DENR will continue to monitor the situation.

“They still have petroleum collection equipment mobilized out there,” Rhame says. “They still have absorbent booms and pads that they are using to pick up the residual. I would say that stuff will stay in place for about a week or two just to catch anything residual as rains occur.”

Bishop Construction Company and the gas station are considered the “potentially responsible parties,” but Rhame says the EPA hasn’t taken any subsequent action at this point. He says the construction company has been “very cooperative” and brought in Zebra Private Remediation Services to help in the clean-up.  Zebra’s vacuum truck was used to remove the remaining gasoline on site to prevent further leakage.