We were very lucky in Western New York not to be affected by Hurricane Sandy. The people there are still dealing with the aftermath. There are many people in New York City and New Jersey who have experienced long-term power outages.
What would you do if the power was off for more than a week? Where would you go if you needed to evacuate from your home? How would you communicate with family or friends if there was no phone or computer service? While we are unlikely to be affected by most natural disasters, ice storms, blizzards or snow-related emergencies are very likely possibilities in our county. Don't let a county-wide emergency catch you unprepared.
The County Emergency Services, the Sheriff's Department, and many other county and community partners continue to work together to prepare our county should a disaster strike. This emergency preparedness helps officials mobilize a coordinated response to an emergency and was extremely helpful with the flood that affected Silver Creek and other areas of our county a few years ago. Coordination of emergency personnel and volunteers is extremely important, but often how a community fairs in a disaster rests largely on how the citizens react. That is why we urge everyone to do their part in preparing for an emergency by taking some simple steps:
1) Make a Plan: If disaster strikes you may not have much time to act. Planning ahead for what to do and sharing your plan with family, friends and neighbors can make all the difference. Know what you are going to do if the power or heat goes out, the computer and phones are down, and meal or medical services are unable to reach you for several days. If you have a home care service, know their emergency procedures and numbers. Keep a list of personal emergency numbers in one place, and take it with you if you must evacuate.
2) Build a kit with at least three days of critical supplies to keep you safe and comfortable. In a county-wide disaster, it may take emergency personnel several days to get to everyone in need. Having your own essential supplies will free emergency personnel to treat your frail or critically injured neighbors who cannot wait for assistance. Maintain your plan or kit and review every six months to one year. While a snow-related disaster is the most likely scenario during January and February in Western New York, having a plan and a kit ready throughout the year will make sure you are not at risk should we experience an unexpected storm, train-derailment, or tire dump fire-all very likely scenarios. Make sure you rotate all the perishable supplies in your kits, update emergency contact information, and have fresh batteries for medically necessary devices or transportation equipment. The following is a list of recommended supplies for your disaster kit: A three-day supply of nonperishable food, a three-day supply of water (1 gallon per person, per day); a manual can opener; a flashlight with extra batteries; a first-aid kit; a cellphone with an extra battery and charger; sanitation items; a change of clothes and weather-suitable clothing; copies of ID; credit cards and cash; medical and Medicare insurance cards; a list of medications and dosages; allergy information; extra eyeglasses and contact supplies; extra hearing aid and wheelchair batteries. Also plan for care of pets. People with special needs should also have a list of their medical equipment; keep items such as wheelchairs and walkers in easy-to-find locations, and provide your power company with a list of any power-dependent life support equipment.
3) Stay Informed: Pay attention to the weather by tuning in to your TV weather channel, local radio weather alerts and weather warnings. If you need information and do not have access to TV or radio, call 211 for information or the local number designated by the sheriff or emergency services. Only call 911 if you have a life-threatening emergency. Consider purchasing an NOAA radio which will sound an alert if adverse weather heads your way, and it should have S.A.M.E. feature, which allows you to program for alerts in your area. These radios usually have a backup battery, so they will work when the power goes off. Sign up for special NY Alert email warnings by logging on to nyalert.gov and make sure your smoke detector has fresh batteries in order to inform you of a possible house fire.
For group presentations on emergency preparedness, call Chautauqua County Emergency Services at 753-4320 or the local American Red Cross (664-5115 in Jamestown or 366-4433 in Dunkirk). For more information go to NYS division of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness at dhses.ny.gov/aware-prepare or call our NY Connects helpline at 753-4582, 363-4582 or 661-7582. Many thanks to Norma Cummings from Chautauqua County Emergency Services for the information contained in this article. Stay well.