Prepare yourself

This year, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has set a goal to train 100,000 New Yorkers on what to do in case of a disaster. More than 220 local residents took part in the Citizen Preparedness Corps Training Program Thursday.

This statewide program, led by the New York Army National Guard, trained residents on what to do in case of a disaster. The event, sponsored by Sen. Catharine Young and Assemblyman Andrew Goodell, was held at SUNY Fredonia.

“The more people who are trained as first responders, the better we can all be as citizens of New York to prepare for such events and to help each other,” said SUNY Fredonia President Virginia Horvath. “You’re taking on the responsibility of helping those around you by being a first responder. The skills you learn today will help save lives in future disasters.”

Fredonia Mayor Stephen Keefe said the local area experiences a severe storm, a tornado or flooding to some extent annually. The most recent local disaster occurred in 2009 in Silver Creek and Gowanda when floodwaters overtook those communities.

“It is essential that we take pro-active steps to ready ourselves, our homes and our communities for whatever the future brings,” Keefe said.

County Executive Vince Horrigan also spoke of the 2009 floods that affected the area. Horrigan recalled serving as a director of the Red Cross when he received a phone call in the middle of the night. He quoted the Red Cross motto of “Hope for the best, prepare for the worse.”

Goodell said organizations, such as the Red Cross and local fire departments are the ones who respond to natural disasters. He said those organizations’ resources can dwindle amid a disaster. By being prepared, he said, citizens help make the first responders’ role easier.

The training session was led by Command Sgt. Maj. David Oliver of the National Guard who spoke on the three types of natural disasters: natural, manmade and technological. When planning for natural disasters, it is important to plan accordingly. Families should develop a disaster plan, which includes a communication plan and two meeting locations – one right outside the home and one outside the community. If asked to evacuate your home, be familiar with the evacuation route and have multiple routes to get to the meeting point.

“Take into consideration, you spend a good part of your day at work, how are you going to get from work to home or get from work to the meeting place,” Oliver said.

Pets should not be forgotten and arrangements should be made in case of evacuation. Important papers such as vaccination records should be taken with you. Utilities should be turned off only if they are damaged and should be decided by the homeowner. Families should take care of themselves prior to helping out neighbors.

“It sounds kind of selfish but you do not want to become part of the problem … make sure you’re good to go before you reach out,” Oliver said.

If a family were to shelter in place, enough food and water is needed for seven to 10 days. It is recommended that a gallon of water per day, equivalent to about 2 1/2 cases of water, is kept per person. Tap water can also be used as long as it kept in a sanitized container. A food and water supply must be rotated regularly. In case of a disaster, 911 should only be utilized in a life-threatening situation and cell phone use should be limited to a minimum.

Other safety tips Oliver gave included installing smoke detectors and carbon dioxide detectors, removing combustible and flammable materials from your home, and being educated on using a fire extinguisher. Oliver also suggested keeping important documents together in one place, along with photos of valuables.

As part of a disaster plan, residents should have a basic first aid kit and a preparedness kit full of survival essentials including flashlights, a battery-operated radio and a multi-purpose tool. Each kit should be personalized to the family. All training attendees received a kit at the conclusion.

During a disaster, spontaneous volunteers are needed. Director for County Emergency Services Julius Leone said the department works closely with local fire departments for volunteers. He encouraged residents to join a local fire department or the Red Cross. Many fire departments are holding open houses this weekend, he said.

For more information on preparing for a disaster, visit prepare.ny.gov.

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