The House Expo on Emergency Preparedness Fair,held Monday at Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill,was open to the public for the first time. The fair demonstrated innovative strides in disaster preparedness.
Three quarters of the exhibitors at the fair had electronic alternative sources for information also posted on their websites.
For instance,Federal Emergency Management Authority has a mobile app as does Homeland Security and Emergency Management Authority and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Getting information via whichever means is important since a 2013 FEMA report revealed that information-aware individuals are most likely to take steps toward preparing for disaster.
The FEMA app has a disaster reporter feature that provides access to disaster information within the United States in real time. The substance abuse and mental health agency has a wide range of apps,including the SAMHSA Behavioral Health Disaster Response App that provides information to first responders about how best to support survivors.
Some forms of disaster assistance are decidedly not electronic. Dogs not only sniff for survivors but also counsel them.
Burton and Shellie Goldstein,team members at HOPE Animal-Assisted Crisis Response,work with dogs in emergencies to provide therapy to disaster survivors. They brought two Shih Tzu dogs that belong to HOPE.
“People who love dogs gravitate towards them,while others just tolerate them,” Shellie Goldstein said.
Burton Goldstein added,“Dogs provide a calming effect and lower the heart rate,especially when survivors do not want to talk to anyone.”
Dogs were used after last year’s shooting at the Navy Yard in Washington,super storm Sandy two years ago and the Virginia Tech shootings in 2007.
The fair was part of the Preparathon campaign run by FEMA to sensitize the American public about disaster preparedness.
“America needs to move from awareness on disaster preparedness to action,” said Todd Sharpe,senior appropriations liaison at FEMA,who was manning the agency’s table at the fair.
Approximately 150 people turned up for the fair whose exhibitors included the Humane Society,National Weather Service,U.S. Capitol Police,Washington’s Metro,Red Cross,Fairfax County (Va.) Office of Emergency Management,Prince George’s County (Md.) Office of Homeland Security,U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,Serve DC,FEMA and House Sergeant at Arms Emergency Management Division.
A consumer guide for preparedness noted that 70 percent of the American population is not prepared for disaster.
The 2013 FEMA report indicates that volunteering can influence preparedness. Serve DC,a government agency that also coordinates volunteer activity,trains more people in disaster management during disaster preparedness month,and conducts four to five institutional trainings.
“We train approximately 1,000 individuals annually” Clarence Fluker,communication director at Serve DC,said.
While it is important to prepare,volunteer and get training on disaster management,it is equally important to understand culture.
Jamie Seligman,a program project officer at SAMHSA,underscored the importance of working with the community since breaching cultural barriers even with the best of intentions may be counterproductive in an emergency situation.
Calling 911 in the event of a life-threatening emergency is important. However,in many communities,calling 311 in a lesser emergency case might free up the line for a more serious case.
A simple step is to have a kit with flashlights and a radio – preferably those that operate on solar power or with a crank. The kit should also include batteries.
“People need to prepare and avoid complacency. Do not take preparedness for granted,” Kim McCall,a D.C. homeland security official,said.
Thomas Loyd,an inspector at U. S Capitol Police,said,“Always think of the worst-case scenario and be prepared for it.”
With less than two weeks to the Sept. 30 National Preparathon day,14.5 million Americans have registered to take part.
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