Disaster preparedness guide unveiled to help North Country residents

PLATTSBURGH In case of events such as a natural disaster or terrorist attack, North Country residents now have a new tool to help them better prepare for catastrophe. United Way of Clinton and Essex Counties Inc. has produced a 26-page basic guide for disaster preparedness that 15,000 copies of which are now being distributed throughout Clinton, Essex and Franklin counties. Local United Way executive director John C. Bernardi, joined by Jeanie D. Roberts, executive director of the North Country chapter of the American Red Cross and Kelly C. Donoghue, assistant director of the Clinton County Office of Emergency Services, officially unveiled the new guide Nov. 8, discussing the evolution of its creation. We, as agencies, are always working for our communities to prepare them, said Mr. Bernardi. The better prepared we are for potential disasters, the stronger we can be as a community. The guide, titled Are You Prepared? A Basic Guide for North Country Communities on Disaster Preparedness, replaces its predecessor, a 24-page guide created after an ice storm that wreaked havoc across the state in January 1998. Ice Storm 98, as it came to be known, served as a catalyst for the United Way to work with various agencies to better prepare residents for such an event. The new guide, much like the old one, features a list of essentials to have on hand in the event of a power outage or storm, such as canned goods, drinking water and a first aid kit. The guide also outlines how to create a preparedness plan tailored to the needs of an individual, family or business. A strong emphasis in the new guide deals with those with disabilities, such as the hearing, speech or visually impaired. Directions for the cognitively impaired, such as those with Alzheimers disease, and mobility impaired, such as those confined to a wheelchair or those who require a walker are also included. The addition of that information, said Mr. Bernardi, came from nearly two years of research and input from several non-profit human service organizations and governmental agencies for the guides development. We felt strongly about getting input from a wide variety of sources, said Mr. Bernardi. A lot of things have happened in our world since then that led us to believe we needed to build a better mousetrap for families, Ms. Roberts said, referring to the 1998 ice storm. Were hoping to empower people with this book to look after their own particular needs immediately following a disaster. The idea is to give residents the information necessary to keep themselves safe for a period of 72 hours following a disastrous event, allowing emergency responders more time to reach them. It always makes it much easier for a emergency manager to know that the people are aware of what needs to be done and to have the right supplies, said Mr. Donoghue. It certainly makes our job a lot easier during any incident, but [the book is] only good if you use it. That is the key, for individuals, families and businesses to utilize this guide prior to a disaster, added Mr. Bernardi. You wouldnt want to grab it during a disaster because it would only be somewhat useful. We really appreciate the United Way and the Red Cross for doing this booklet, because it really is a tool that is out there in the public to be utilized, said Mr. Donoghue. Copies of the preparedness guide may be obtained by calling the local United Way or any of the organizations 33 partner agencies. The United Way may be reached at 563-0028 or on-line at www.unitedwayce. org. Copies may also be obtained from the local chapter of the American Red Cross at 561-7280.

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