Senior Center hosts Disaster Readiness 101 presentation
By Mike Lauterborn
(Posted to Fairfield.Patch.com 5/26)
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Fairfield, CT – Are you prepared for an emergency or major disaster? What do you need to do to prepare and respond?
These questions were addressed Wednesday morning at the Fairfield Senior Center in a presentation titled “Disaster Readiness 101”, conducted by members of the Fire Department, Health Department and Fairfield Citizen Corps Council (FCCC). A small group of seniors and representatives from Fairfield’s Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), volunteers trained to help in an emergency, attended the free talk.
Presentation organizer Norma Peterson, a coordinator with the FCCC, gave background about her group and the importance of the session. “The RCCC is a volunteer organization sponsored by the First Selectman’s office as part of a Federal initiative for citizen emergency preparedness established after 9/11, recognized by the state government and FEMA as such,” she said. “Our goal is to help our senior population understand what their role is in emergency preparedness, because we all have a responsibility to plan ahead.”
Peterson said the timing of the talk coincides with the June 1 start of hurricane season, one of the primary vulnerabilities we have in this area. This week is also National Hurricane Preparedness Week, as defined by the Federal Emergency Management Administration.
Deputy Fire Chief Art Reid, who is also the Assistant Emergency Manager for the town, was the initial speaker and said that while Fairfield has a good emergency services system in place, in large emergencies the town can’t be everything to everyone. “Seniors and children are most vulnerable and while seniors take good care of themselves, they can use additional assistance and resources,” he said. “After disasters like Katrina, we realized an emphasis had to be put on personal preparedness. With the tornadoes in the Midwest this week, there was a fairly organized large scale response, but the first 72 to 96 hours people need to take care of themselves to some extent.”
Reid said the key emergency concerns in this area are flooding, winter storms, thunderstorms and hurricanes and that his Emergency Management department serves as the conduit between other town departments like the Board of Education, Fire Dept. and Finance Dept.
By planning ahead, fellow presenter Peterson said people can help ensure a more successful outcome. As a first step, she advised creating a disaster checklist, which included the following:
- assemble supplies in one place
- arrange in advance someone to check on you
- plan for transportation if you must evacuate
- find a safe place at home
- plan a way to signal if help is needed (e.g. sign in window)
- tune into media and follow instructions
- post emergency phone numbers near phone
- coordinate in advance health care services and medical equipment
The next key step is to create a Disaster Kit, advised Peterson. With seniors in mind, but inclusive of citizens of any age, she recommended the following items as basic suggestions, though added that people can customize with their own preferences.
- Bottled water
- Extra eyeglasses
- Medical insurance
- Medicare cards
- Duct tape
- First Aid Kit
- Fishing line
- Face mask
- Non-perishable food,
- Light sticks
- Important family documents
Presenter Jon Oldham, a sanitarian with the health department, said it’s important to keep tabs on this kit. “It’s good to keep an inventory list of kit items with notations as to quantity and expiration date, and to check on it periodically to keep refreshing items.”
Preparedness shouldn’t only be limited to weather-oriented emergencies pointed out fellow health dept. presenter Mari Jo Panettieri, Emergency Preparedness Coordinator. “Disease outbreaks like pandemic flu can be a local issue,” she said. “The most significant recorded incidence of this was the Spanish Flu of 1918 which killed 50 million people worldwide. You can’t stop a pandemic flu from coming but you can lessen its impact.”
While the health dept. will do its job of keeping citizens informed and setting up vaccination stations and clinics, Panettieri said there are some basic strategies people can follow:
- use good hygiene, e.g. wash hands, cover mouth when coughing
- keep hands away from face
- stay home if sick
- prepare for disruption in normal activities
- keep supplies on hand
- get vaccinated
- stay informed
“By preparing for one type of emergency, it really helps you in all major emergencies and disasters,” summarized Peterson.