Residents Get Emergency Prep Lesson
By Miriam Rosenberg
Ever since Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans last summer, people have been thinking about what they would do if a hurricane of that magnitude hit the Rockaways.
Yet, as a representative of the Office of Emergency Management told Far Rockaway residents at the February meeting of the 101 Precinct Community Council, there are other more likely disasters citizens must prepare themselves for, such as building collapses, explosions and - what he called the number one concern - fires.
"You must have a plan," said OEM's Michael Den Dekker.
Den Dekker advised residents to prepare for emergencies by using the three H's: What to have in your Head, what to have in your Hands and what to have in your Home.
"Establish a meeting place and know all the exit routes out of buildings," said Den Dekker, as he began to describe what each family member should have in their head. Designate someone that all family members can get in touch with if the family is separated.
"Pick someone who lives outside of the New York City area," continued Den Dekker, who explained it would be easier to make contact with someone outside the affected area. "That person can act as a dispatcher."
Every household member needs a Go Bag in his or her hand in case of an evacuation.
Among the items needed in a Go Bag are medicines for at least one week, medical information for every member of the family, copies of important documents, current photos of everyone in the household, a first aid kit and contact and meeting place information for the household.
The OEM recommends storing enough supplies to last at least three days in the event a disaster keeps you from leaving your home.
"You should have one gallon of water, per person, per day," said Den Dekker.
Every home must have non-perishable, ready-to-eat canned food with a manual can opener, a first aid kit and any needed medications, and iodine tablets or one quart of unscented bleach in case citizens are instructed by officials to disinfect water. An eyedropper can be used to add bleach to water. Also needed is a battery operated am/fm radio with extra batteries.
"Radios are the best means of communication," Den Dekker said. "Radios should be everywhere."
In addition, each household should have a landline phone that does not rely on electricity. Cell phones, which relay on electricity, can become useless when power is out.
Den Dekker urged those at the meeting to start planning immediately for disasters, including a hurricane.
"The [February] blizzard would have been a category 3 hurricane - enough to evacuate," he said.
Den Dekker said if you know how to respond by using the three H's, then all you really need to know is whether to evacuate or to stay.
"If you are to staying, also called sheltering in place, stay home. It will help us all," said the OEM official, who warned by leaving your home you could get into an accident and then city resources may be needed to help you. Den Dekker explained residents would not need to run out to the store to get supplies, like they did before the blizzard, if they kept specific supplies in the home for a disaster.
"If you are told to go, then it is hoped you planned in advance to stay at a friend's house or a relative's house otherwise you will become the guest of the city of New York at one of our shelters," said Den Dekker. Gian Jones, president of the 101 Precinct Community Council, talked to The Wave about the OEM's presentation.
"Believe or not, I already practice a lot of what he was talking about," said Jones. "I did learn one or two extra things, like the Go Bag, and I'm probably going to do that."
The OEM has several booklets explaining what to do in a disaster including 'A Household Preparedness Guide', 'For Seniors and People with Disabilities', and a CD-ROM interactive guide to help citizens prepare for emergencies. For more information go to www.nyc.gov/readyny or call 311.