By Cathy Wakeman
What do you do if disaster hits close to home?
That question has hit close to home for a member of the Town of Dryden’s new Safety and Preparedness Advisory Committee. Katie Quinn-Jacobs related, “When Hurricane Irene hit in 2011, my parents lost everything. We would like our community to be prepared so that in the event of a crisis or disaster, we’re ready to respond.”
Town of Dryden residents Jan and Tony Bretscher and Dana Magnuson join Katie as volunteer members of the Town’s newest advisory board, established by a resolution at the Town’s June 21 board meeting.
Deputy Town Supervisor Dan Lamb explains, “We formed the advisory committee to enhance communications with the public, the private sector, and non-profit agencies such as the Red Cross, with regards to safety and preparedness. A gap in this communication was highlighted by the Poet’s Landing fire last August, as well as the ongoing notification needs of our residents living near Borger Station in Ellis Hollow.”
A systematic approach to public notification has been a goal of the local chapter of Mothers Out Front for some time now, specifically to alert residents who live near the Dominion Gas Borger Station. The station periodically has blowdowns, or excess gas vented to the atmosphere when the compressor units are shut down. This and other potential hazards warrant a need to notify residents in the event of an emergency.
Lamb continues, “This committee is now authorized to receive communications from Dominion Energy about scheduled or unscheduled maintenance and can also serve as the town’s liaison to the American Red Cross in times of emergency.”
The committee has been tasked by the town with the following duties:
• Advise the Town Board about matters related to safety and disaster preparedness.
• Coordinate with local energy suppliers to ensure operational safety and provide information about local operations to the Town of Dryden residents through various media, including a public notification system for activities at local industrial sites.
• Develop a disaster preparedness pamphlet and disseminate to the Town of Dryden residents through various avenues.
• Develop a matrix identifying shelters and potential shelters throughout the Township that could be used in the case of a disaster.
• Coordinate and integrate disaster preparedness with Tompkins County and other agencies such as the Red Cross.
The committee members expressed their gratitude to Beth Hamilton, Tompkins County Department of Emergency Response Assistant Director and Emergency Medical Services Coordinator. Hamilton helped the team accomplish their first goal, bringing the town on board with the county’s SWIFT 911 service.
Magnuson said, “This subscription service allows residents access to emergency alerts in a way that makes sense to them. Alerts can come over a land-line phone, e-mail, text, or all of the above. Sixty-nine residents have registered so far (as of July 7).” Residents can register online, download an app to their phone, or call Tompkins EMS at (607) 266-2630 to register over the phone. They can also customize what type of alerts they would like to receive, including construction alerts, weather alerts, road closures, and town or county notices.
The next goal, Quinn-Jacobs noted, is preparing an Emergency Preparedness Plan for the town, where Hamilton was also instrumental. The committee will compliment what the county has already done in creating a matrix of information needed for an emergency response plan. This would include resources such as shelters and potential evacuation sites, responsible organizations, communication options and so much more.
Beth explained that every emergency starts and ends locally. “Follow up after a disaster starts with the individual and family and works up to a community level. The more members of the community are involved in preparation, the more resilient that community is. There are far fewer first responders, fire, EMS, and police than there are community members. During a disaster, needs have to be prioritized. People have to be able to survive for three to five days, or until there is time to assess the disaster and get help.”
Beth also shared that Tompkins EMS has a treasure trove of resources for anyone interested in preparedness, from brochures to speakers willing to come to a community organization to speak. While thinking of preparing for a disaster may be overwhelming, preparing can be as simple as doing one thing each month.
The committee meets from 7 to 9 p.m. on the fourth Monday of each month at the Ellis Hollow Community Center to continue this good work. Their next meeting is scheduled for Aug. 27. Interested members of the community are welcome to join the work.
“We’re grateful that several capable Dryden residents have stepped up to serve on the committee. We look forward to hearing their recommendations about ways to enhance safety and preparedness in our community,” said Lamb.
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