In recent years, Cortland County has been in the crosshairs of many severe weather events, including the Southern Tier floods in 2011, Superstorm Sandy in 2012, and the Smithfield tornado and East Syracuse “microburst” storm his year. Home fires are commonplace, and man-made disasters such as chemical spills, nuclear accidents and pandemics are always a possibility. Being prepared for an emergency or natural disaster is vitally important, now more than ever.
September is National Preparedness Month, and to get Cortland County residents ready for the next emergency the American Red Cross, United Way, Chamber of Commerce, and the Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) are hosting Cortland County Preparedness Week Sept. 22-27 to help everyone “Be Red Cross Ready” if disaster strikes.
There are three preparedness steps to remember: Get a Kit, Make a Plan, and Be Informed. You can get a free starter kit to help build your own preparedness kit by visiting one of the following sites from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 27:
Cortland – County Office Building, 60 Central Avenue
Homer – Community Building, Main Street (behind the Fire Department)
Marathon – Civic Center, Brink Street
At each site, visitors can check out a mini Red Cross shelter, see how to build a preparedness kit, receive instructions and a free starter kit, listen to first responders explain their role in a disaster or emergency, and learn how local agencies and organizations help you prepare.
Here are the three preparedness basics to help you get started:
1. Get a Kit: To shelter at home in case of an emergency or disaster, store basic supplies to help you and your family survive for 72 hours or more, as recommended by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the American Red Cross. Get a kit with essential items needed during that critical 72-hour period, such as water, a flashlight and non-perishable food. Agencies, organizations, and state and local governments need time to assemble human and material resources that can be deployed to an affected area, so sheltering in place will help first responders help you.
2. Make a Plan: An evacuation plan is needed if sheltering in place is not possible. Determine two or three destinations and the routes to get there. Include emergency contacts in your kit, and make sure everyone in your family has this information stored in phones or on paper. Making an emergency plan with your family before a disaster strikes will help you and your family if you need to evacuate.
3. Be Informed: Watch the news or weather if a hurricane, flood, or other severe weather is predicted. Know the difference between a weather alert, watch, or warning. A warning means that danger is imminent, so take precautions. A fireproof, waterproof box with all of your important documents and irreplaceable family photos should be ready if you have to evacuate. If local authorities tell you to evacuate, EVACUATE. If you do steps 1, 2 and 3 above, your emergency plan is already in place.
You can also learn about preparedness by attending a Lunch-and-Learn presentation. On Monday, Sept. 22, Red Cross volunteer Tom Margrave will discuss General Preparedness and provide information about special needs, the aged and pets. On Wednesday, Sept. 24, first responder Mike TenKate from the Cortland Fire Department will explain the need for sheltering in place, the role of first responders, and what to do if you need to evacuate. You can also enter to win one of 10 Red Cross Deluxe Emergency Kits at the presentations. Lunch is provided, so please RSVP to 753-1182 to register.
Many organizations have donated their time and resources to support Cortland County Preparedness Week activities, including the Cortland Police Department, Salvation Army, Marietta Corp., J.M. Murray Center, Department of Water and Soil Conservation, City of Cortland, Village of Homer, Cortland Downtown Partnership, Access to Independence, and Cortland Regional Medical Center.
If you are interested in becoming a Red Cross disaster volunteer or preparedness presenter for your community, contact the Red Cross at 753-1182.
Michele Whalen is the Cortland County Manager for the American Red Cross. She can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or (607) 753-1182.