Some 30 Islanders, including representatives of the local Girl Scouts, attended a New York State sponsored emergency preparedness meeting at Town Hall on Sept. 14. Capt. Joshua Tavares of the National Guard conducted the program.
Backpacks containing survival supplies such as food rations, a flashlight, a whistle, gloves, dust masks, a portable radio, duct tape, safety goggles, a mylar blanket, a first-aid kit and emergency pouches of drinking water were distributed to attendees.
Capt. Tavares explained how the public must learn to “prepare, respond and recover” from disasters that he divided into three categories:
• Natural, which includes hurricanes, floods and other assaults by nature.
• Man-made disasters, such as terrorism, transportation accidents and collapse of structures.
• Technological, which includes cyber attacks and water and power disruptions.
The officer noted that New York is at the highest risk in the United States for technological disasters. “We must do advance planning on the family level,” he said, adding that families must have a three-step plan.
“You have to have a place to meet inside or outside your house and you must have a place to meet outside in your neighborhood,” Capt. Tavares explained, saying that communication is essential. One person should be designated as the leader and know plans for schools, daycare centers and workplaces.
At that point, Town Attorney Bob DeStefano Jr. said the Senior Center is set up for a disaster center and additional information is available from the town.
The next topic Captain Tavares addressed was: “How do we know it’s an emergency?”
He urged everyone to have a radio (one is included in the survival kit) and be aware of the emergency alert system (EAS) and the emergency broadcast system (EBS) that show up on televisions with a red band across the screen.
There will also be phone texts and sirens, and there’s a state app available to enter a location for specific information.
Capt. Tavares then touched on procedures for dealing with an active shooter situation.“Run, hide and fight in that order,” he said, noting that the most sensible thing to do is get away if you can. And if that’s not possible, find a good place to hide.
“If there’s no place to hide, put up the best fight you can,” he added.
He also stressed the importance of learning all evacuation procedures for all the places that you visit.
Common sense procedures about fire safety were also discussed and listeners were urged to limit combustible storage, check batteries in smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms and have alarms in bedrooms. Also, have fire extinguishers that can handle grease and electrical fires.
“And know your utilities and how to shut them off,” the captain said.
If individuals are leaving their homes, they shouldn’t leave pets behind and should lock the doors to their homes.
“And if you’re trapped, use your whistle,” he said, adding that screaming takes up lots of necessary energy.
It’s also important that a leader or head of a family doesn’t show frustration and helps to maintain good morale.
“When returning to your home after a disaster, let the professionals hook up all the utilities and always beware of scams by people who want to capitalize on others’ misfortunes,” Capt. Tavares said, adding that documenting the damage is necessary.
“And when it comes to evacuation orders, it’s always best to follow them because emergency services might not be available for those who stay,” he said.