Northeast Times

Hurricane response planning discussed at meeting

A look back: In this file photo, a downed tree is shown in North­east Phil­adelphia fol­low­ing Hur­ricane Sandy. Com­munity groups and gov­ern­ment agen­cies planned how to re­spond to hur­ricanes and oth­er dis­asters dur­ing a June 10 ses­sion at Ar­ca­dia Uni­versity in Glen­side.

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

• Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion: www.cdc.gov or m.cdc.gov 

• Na­tion­al Weath­er Ser­vice: www.weath­er.gov

• Na­tion­al Hur­ricane Cen­ter: www.nhc.noaa.gov/mo­bile

• Amer­ic­an Red Cross: www.red­cross.org or www.red­cross.org/mo­bile

• Free check­lists can be found at www.red­cross.org/pre­pared­ness­fast­facts  ••

Sources: Phil­adelphia Of­fice of Emer­gency Man­age­ment, PECO and the Amer­ic­an Red Cross.

You can reach at jloftus@bsmphilly.com.

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