UPDATE: Oct. 29 9:53pm
Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl has ordered non-emergency City personnel to stay home Tuesday.
“As this storm bears down on our City, we need to make sure we are keeping all residents out of harm's way whenever possible,” Ravenstahl said.
At the same time Ravenstahl announced that trash pickup would run on a normal schedule Tuesday and the city's 311 center will be open to take non-emergency calls from city residents.
The remnants of Hurricane Sandy began washing over Pittsburgh Monday bring more than just rain. For many the storm has brought confusion as to what they should be doing to prepare and how they should react to a personal emergency. While opening the county’s Emergency Operations center, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald called on residents “to be aware of their surroundings” and “be prepared to deal with the effects of this storm.”
Fitzgerald encouraged resident to gather their emergency supplies in one place including a three-day supply of basic items including water, food, flashlights, battery-powered radios, first aid kit, pet supplies, and prescription medications. Details on making an emergency kit can be found on the county’s website.
Allegheny County Chief of Emergency Services Chief Alvin Henderson urged residents to take precautions and to make their own safety a priority. “Do not use generators in a closed garage or other unventilated area that is attached to your home. Don’t drive through standing water in case of flooding – turn around and go the other way. Obviously, we would also encourage residents to check on their friends, family and neighbors to make sure that they’re doing okay during the next few days,” said Henderson.
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett is recommending that residents impacted by the storm get the latest information on the state’s emergency efforts by going to the commonwealth’s website.
PennDOT is reminding motorists that specific information about any major state road closures is available by calling 511 or by visiting the state's travel information website. However, state and local officials are asking residents to stay home if at all possible during the brunt of the storm.
Responding to storms is more than just Public Safety
The PA 2-1-1 Southwest hotline has been activated to help residents deal with the storm which is expected to pack its highest winds and heaviest rains late Monday and into Tuesday Morning. The PA 2-1-1 line and website is run by The United Way and is intended to help individuals find health and human services.
As of 7:00 Monday night the County opened its Public Inquiry Line for those dealing with emotional support needs. Residents in need of support in dealing with such issues in a stressful situation are encouraged to call 412-482-3250 at any time to get help or to be put in contact with resources. The state has launched a similar effort. Anyone in need of help can call the Disaster Distress Helpline at 1-800-985-5990, or text 'TalkWithUs' to 66746. However, state and county officials warn that any life threatening emergencies should be directed to 9-1-1.
Finding help after the damage is done
Power companies are warning residents to not go near downed lines. Experts recommend that any downed tree limbs found overnight should be left alone until daylight if at all possible. Only then can you be certain that they are not touching any wires. Residents should report power outages directly to their power companies. In the Pittsburgh area Duquesne Light customers should call 1-888-393-7000 and FirstEnergy customers; including Penn Power, Penelec and West Penn Power, which used to be know as Allegheny Power, can call 1-888-544-4877. First energy offers a map of outages by county.
For those who are in need of emergency shelter, the American Red Cross has set up a website or the information can be sent in to a cell phone by texting "shelter" and your zip code to 43362.
Special help is available for Seniors
Local Area Agencies on Aging (AAA) can coordinate shelter or find services for older Pennsylvanians during Hurricane Sandy. Residents are encouraged to call 1-800-490-8505 to be connected with an AAA in their local area. The agencies can provide seniors with home-delivered meals, Protective services and more in both the long and short term.