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Being prepared for damaging storms

Limbs from a large tree damaged by high winds in this April 13, 2020 photo, blocked Monroe Street, near the intersection of East Fulton Street in Gloversville. (The Leader-Herald/James A. Ellis)

By JENNIFER FARNSWORTH

The Leader-Herald

JOHNSTOWN — Ice and snow, heavy rain and thunder storms, and other violent weather scenes are no stranger to area residents, but in the wake of the recent tragedy in Texas, emergency response agencies are reminding people to always be prepared. From national level to local levels, officials say to make a plan now so that if and when disaster strikes, you’re prepared.

Steven Santa Maria, director and fire coordinator for Fulton County Emergency Management, said it starts with each individual doing what they can at home. The more prepared you are the better, including everything from having a supply of food and water, to fully charged cell phone, and even simple things like having extra batteries for your flashlight, explains Santa Maria.

“What you do ahead of time will make a difference in how you fare should a disaster occur. The key is to be as proactive as you can,” said Santa Maria.

Communication is also key when it comes to dealing with a disaster whether it is localized or one on a greater scale. Santa Maria explains that getting the word out early if a storm is coming is critical. He advises people to take advantage of all the ways the county communicates, in particular with their free app download that provides the most current and accurate information.

“A big part of our response is prevention. We try to get the message out the best we can whether it be the emergency response system you hear on the radio and tv, social media, the website, or our app, something I really encourage people to download because it is immediate,” said Santa Maria.

Ready.gov also recommends having one gallon of bottled water per person per day, for at least three days on hand for drinking and sanitation. They advise having ready-to-eat canned meats, fruits, and vegetables, protein bars, peanut butter, non-perishable pasteurized milk, and food for infants. Like Santa Maria, they also say people should have prescription medicines and batteries stockpiled.

“We have had ice storms that have left us without power for days. Sometimes it can take 48 to 72 hours to have power restored, so it is a good idea to have enough supplies for that amount of time,” said Santa Maria.

In the event that a mass shelter is needed, Santa Maria said the county has an agreement with FMCC, the availability to work with the Red Cross, and can also look to local schools is needed.

“Places like schools are handicap accessible and have things like kitchens, so they are a viable option too,” said Santa Maria.

Santa Maria said they are responsible for the County’s Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan and all annexes, Fire Mutual Aid and Mobilization Plan, Hazardous Material Response Plan and the All Hazard Mitigation Plan. Part of their emergency response includes the County’s Public Safety Radio and Microwave System consisting of five communication tower sites, related infrastructure and all communication equipment at these sites.

Two things that Santa Maria recommends that people do now is head to the county website to download the app, which sends out critical push notifications, and secondly if you rely on electrically operated medical devices or have other special medical needs, you can register in the National Grid website. The bottom of the webpage has valuable links and resources, including a convenient link for the county app.

At Disasterchecklist.org you can take a quiz “Is Your Family Prepared For a Disaster?” The site also lays out a four part checklist that covers, alert systems, evacuation plan information, communication and plans for shelter. The site advises to plan as if you and your family will not all be together when disaster strikes. They recommend establishing a meeting point for your family member, a familiar place that is easy to find. As a reminder if you have a pet, have a plan for them too. Documenting any important belongings is also a recommended precaution.

For more information visit https://www.fultoncountyny.gov/emergency-management.

DisasterChecklist.org is a Washington, DC-based nonpartisan nonprofit organization committed to raising awareness of disaster preparedness and contributed to this article.

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