Mark Twain, who had more of his own oneliners than Henny Youngman ever would, famously quoted his friend essayist Charles Dudley Warner, that everybody complains about the weather but nobody does anything about it. On Tuesday, some people gave it a try.
No, nobody was trying to control nature’s forces, but representatives of disaster-relief organizations, community groups and government agencies planned how to respond to hurricanes and other disasters during a June 10 session at Arcadia University in Glenside.
If you doubt the necessity of such a gathering, think again. Although Greater Philadelphia generally has a temperate climate, the region’s residents are familiar with malevolent weather. Think Irene, Sandy and this year’s winter from below hell.
The point of the meeting was getting all the agencies that deal with disasters on the same page and generally better prepared to do their jobs.
The event hosted by the Southeast Pennsylvania Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster, or SEPA VOAD, is a first of its kind for the region, according to John Xuereb, a spokesman for Liberty Lutheran. The symposium was funded by a grant from the Southeast Pennsylvania Regional Task Force.
Most people might not be familiar with SEPA VOAD or the task force.
SEPA VOAD is made up of independent voluntary organizations led by Lutheran Disaster Response, a service of Liberty Lutheran. Other member organizations include the Salvation Army, the United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey, the American Red Cross, United Methodist Committee on Relief, United Church of Christ, and Southern Baptist Disaster Relief. SEPA VOAD’s mission, Xuereb wrote in a May 27 news release, “is for its members to independently meet relief, recovery and response needs within a cooperative framework in preparing the region for disaster.”
SEPA VOAD was formed after Sept. 11, 2001, which emphasized the need to expand coordinated disaster response and recovery efforts in the region. SEPA VOAD’s national counterpart, National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NVOAD), was formed in 1969 following the devastation of Hurricane Camille.
SEPA VOAD President Julia Menzo said the Regional Planning Symposium is an opportunity for human services organizations to learn how they can better serve their own stakeholders, clients and communities. It is also an opportunity to collectively form strategies to build a more resilient Southeastern Pennsylvania.
“It can be challenging to coordinate disaster response when something happens,” said Menzo, who is Liberty Lutheran’s volunteer and disaster response coordinator. “As helping agencies, we work well together, yet understand that there are ways in which we can better work together, particularly as our members are growing. Bringing more partners in and getting to know everybody’s capabilities and what they are interested in contributing, will make it easier for us all to leverage our resources and in the end help more people in the midst of a disaster.”
People from Northeast Philly and all over the region are involved in disasterresponse organizations, Menzo said in a May 28 phone interview.
The SEPA VOAD Regional Planning Symposium’s included speakers who are experts in human services response to disaster:
• Peter Gudaitis, president, National Disaster Interfaiths Network; chief response officer, NY Disaster Interfaith Services
• Laura Zink Marx, executive director, The NJ 211 Partnership
• Samantha Phillips, Philadelphia’s deputy managing director for emergency management and cochair of the SEPA Task Force
The session is not open to the public, but in attendance will be representatives of several state agencies, religious organizations, city and suburban governments, Temple University and Arcadia University.
For more information on the SEPA VOAD Regional Planning Symposium, contact Julia Menzo at 215-424-3741, Ext. 203.
Liberty Lutheran was incorporated in 2001 and headquartered in Ambler, and has locations across Pennsylvania. It provides vital resources to more than 61,000 individuals and families facing life-changing situations. These individualized services include independent and personal care, skilled nursing, rehabilitation, hospice care, inhome supports, wellness services, children and family services, integration services for immigrants and political refugees and disaster response. Northeast Philadelphians are familiar with at least one of Liberty Lutheran’s facilities Paul’s Run Retirement Community, near Bustleton and Haldeman avenues. ••
Tips to beat the storm:
Hurricane season began June 1 and runs until Nov. 30. That should conjure old memories of storms like Sandy and Irene, and the destruction and power outages they caused.
Last year, the Northeast Times printed some tips about preparing for and coping with hurricanes, but then the region didn’t get one in what was expected to be a tough season. Still, the readers who did some of that prep work probably had an easier time during our last, and very rough, winter when hundreds of thousands of Greater Philadelphia residents were stuck in their homes without power.
So, here are those stormprep tips again:
• Stock up on water, batteries, non-perishable food, medicines, pet food.
• Make sure you have working flashlights, lanterns, a portable radio, candles, matches, a first aid kit, area maps, extra medicines for yourself, family members and pets.
• Buy sump pumps, caulk and generators now, not two days before a huge storm arrives.
• Make evacuation plans now. Put together a “go bag” that has food, water, clothing, blankets, flashlights, batteries, extra house and car keys, some cash in small bills, toilet paper, childcare supplies, pet supplies, sanitizers, shoes, rain gear, a multipurpose tool, health information and medicines. Such a bag is good for any kind of emergency.
• Put personal records in a safe place like a safety deposit box.
• Put irreplaceable personal computer data on a flash drive.
• Put important phone numbers in your mobile phone, but also write them down along with important account numbers.
• Buy extra cell phone batteries, a cell phone charger you plug in to your car, or a handcrank battery charger.
Bookmark useful sites:
• Philadelphia Office of Emergency Management: www.phila.gov/ready
• National Weather Service: www.weather.gov
• National Hurricane Center: www.nhc.noaa.gov/mobile
• Free checklists can be found at www.redcross.org/preparednessfastfacts ••
Sources: Philadelphia Office of Emergency Management, PECO and the American Red Cross.