|Ref: Mass town employs lessons-learned from Katrina - says community must prepare itself
| 07.30.2007 | 07:18:48 | Views: 1173 |
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In case of emergency, fend for yourself
Officials take Katrina’s lessons to heart
By Linda Riddle
Long, light, leisurely summer days harbor potentially more menacing weather. With the advent of hurricane season, the Town of Barnstable’s emergency responders review their plans for disaster preparedness and, in a post Katrina-world, these experts urge Cape residents and visitors to assume greater self-sufficiency in planning emergency options.
The town’s police department is the lead agency for emergency preparedness and response. When a natural or man-made disaster strikes, the police activate the town’s command post and first-responders from the police, the town’s five fire districts and the Red Cross mobilize based on the type of emergency. How they respond is triggered by their specific action plans. But since the unanticipated aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, when thousands of people were without help for days, town emergency planners emphasize that awareness and planning are the mutual responsibility of community leaders and residents.
“For a lot of years, the onus was on the government to take care of people. What we know from Katrina is that’s not going to happen,” said Barnstable Deputy Police Chief Craig Tamash. “We have started to stress that people have to be prepared to take care of themselves for three to five days. We have food, water and beds for 50 people. In the best of circumstances, there are limited resources in place in town.”
The Red Cross standard allocation of ready emergency suipplies for each Cape town is for 50 people. Additional supplies must be transported to the town in need.
Fire department officials stress that it may take days or more than a week for off-Cape resources to reach Cape Cod if roads or bridges are impassable.
“People should have learned after Katrina that the likelihood that emergency response may be long in coming should be planned for. People need to keep supplies at home. They should be able to fend for themselves, their family and pets,” said West Barnstable Fire Chief Joseph Maruca, who cited his own home supply of bottled water and canned goods with long expiration dates as an example of emergency kit staples
In addition to food and durables, residents also should compile a contact list, according to Barnstable Fire Chief Robert Crosby. He says that a coordinated communications plan that includes a relative or friend outside the Barnstable area or the state can help to avoid the disorientation that many evacuees experienced after Katrina. If each household member knows to contact one person in case of separation, that person serves as a link for the entire family.
Another important communications link is access to the latest weather conditions, says Barnstable County Emergency Preparedness Coordinator Sean O’Brien, who believes that the Cape is due for a hurricane or strong tropical storm. He recommends that people buy a weather radio that gets National Weather Service broadcasts.
The Cape Cod and Islands chapter of the American Red Cross manages the town’s two emergency shelters in the Barnstable High School and the Marstons Mills East Elementary School. The chapter is hosting disaster planning programs in Cape community centers throughout the summer. Education Coordinator Mike Platt echoes the need for residents to organize their homes for an emergency.
“The most important point is to make sure you have an emergency supply kit in your home that’s up-to-date and to have in it the items you need if you can’t leave the house,” he said.
“What we ask is that people pay attention,” said Tamash.
The Cape Cod Emergency Preparedness Handbook, prepared by Cape emergency responders and the Cape Cod Commission, is reprinted in the 2006-2007 Yellow Pages of Cape Cod and also available on the Town of Barnstable’s Web site at www.town.barnstable.ma.us. A free booklet, Are You Ready, is available on the Web site of the Federal Emergency Management Agency at www.fema.gov.
Publication Date: 07/27/07
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