Ocean View prepares for potential disasters

Relax — no one has suggested any likelihood of a disaster striking this area. However, as husband and wife team Tom and Pat Sheeran pointed out, that’s the problem — there’s no way to predict.

Best to be prepared, and the Sheerans showed Ocean View residents how do go about that at an April 21 workshop on disaster preparedness.

Pat Sheeran noted back-to-back incidents nearby, as recently as 2003. That year, a freight train derailment in Farmington, Del. (south of Harrington) forced the evacuation of 200 people. A few weeks later, Gov. Ruth Ann Minner requested a Snow Emergency Declaration, following record snowfall amounts and several roof collapses.

For anyone homebound, or forced to evacuate, Sheeran said having a plan and an emergency kit on hand could certainly make the wait, or the flight, more comfortable.

To get started, Sheeran recommended a home walkthrough to identify two exits from every room and a check for any hazards (frayed electrical cords, improperly stored combustibles, broken smoke detectors). In addition, everyone should know where his or her emergency shutoffs (water, gas) are located, she said.

Families should set up near and far meeting places — one in the yard, one outside the neighborhood. In addition, everyone should agree on a long distance contact, well outside the area. Sheeran said family members should talk amongst themselves about whose house might become a shelter in the event of a disaster, and reminded everyone that public emergency shelters don’t take pets.

To be really proactive, she suggested people go after CPR and/or first aid certification, and practice their emergency plan – whether that means quickly gathering at a safe spot within the house or elsewhere.

Sheeran also suggested the importance of teaching young children how — and when — to dial 911, learning how to check the fire extinguisher (without discharging it), and keeping paperwork and photographs of personal property in a waterproof container.

Her husband, Tom, covered the emergency kit. “If you go camping, and you have a pack with camping supplies, you’re already halfway there,” he said. “It’s all about being self-contained.”

• Water for three days, minimum — one gallon per person per day (half for drinking, half for cooking/washing).

• Sheeran noted emergency water sources like the hot water tank (let it cool down first), showerheads, ice cube trays and — last resort, toilet reservoirs. “Not the bowl, but the tank,” he quipped.

• Canned foods, and a can opener (don’t forget pets, too). Other options include protein bars, or military meals-ready-to-eat (MREs) — but avoid fatty or salty foods, which aggravate thirst.

• He recommended filling the pack with favorite foods, which would make cycling them out for fresh a special treat (rotate food/water every six months).

• A list of prescriptions and doctors’ phone numbers. Sheeran also suggested a “File for Life” — a sticker on the front door lets emergency responders know there’s a magnetic envelope filled with medical information stuck to the refrigerator.

• First aid kit, battery powered radio, flashlights and extra batteries.

• A little cash, and some games or a deck of cards — something to keep children occupied, especially.

As Ocean View Police Chief Ken McLaughlin stated, “We want you to be able to take care of yourself temporarily, until we can get out to you, and so we won’t have to worry about you in the meantime.”

He followed the Sheerans with an advisory on the admittedly slim threat of terrorist attack. “There aren’t a lot of obvious targets around here, but there’s always the potential of being involved,” he said.

Following the 9/11 disaster, he said the rule had arisen that people should question Middle Eastern males living together with no women or children and minimal furnishings (also, radical literature and hand-drawn maps).

Some terrorists might fit that stereotype, others might not. “One thing we do know for sure — terrorists conduct surveillance,” McLaughlin said.

Things to watch for included videotaping and loitering in the same area over multiple days, McLaughlin pointed out — and if anyone had suspicions, they shouldn’t feel embarrassed to call the tip line, (800) FORCE-1-2.

He also listed various Internet sources for more information:

• For more on disaster preparedness, www.ready.gov.

• For the parents, regarding emergencies and schools, go to www.ed.gov, then “Lead & Manage My School,” scroll to “Safe & Drug-Free Schools, then click on “Emergency Planning.”

• For the kids, www.fema.gov/kids or www.atf.gov/kids.

McLaughlin recognized the Ocean View Citizen Auxiliary Patrol (CAP) for supporting the workshop initiative. The town started up the CAP program last summer, and he said they had 18 members now — but there was room for more.

He noted other opportunities for involvement as well, such as the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program, or RSVP, of which the Sheerans are members.