The words in last week’s editorial regarding the creation of a regional disaster planning and recovery commission for our communities was met with scores of calls and emails from our readers supporting the concept and offering suggestions for its implementation. Perhaps it was because the damage caused by the latest storm, and what it could have done if it would have moved a few miles south when it came aground, was still fresh in everyone’s mind.
The thought of using the emergency management coordinators of the local municipalities, as the “think tank” for collectively developing and implementing a plan to provide an emergency shelter was deemed the logical approach by many.
Having a central or strategically located emergency shelter or shelters that could support victims from East Greenville, Pennsburg, Red Hill and Green Lane boroughs as well as Upper Hanover, Marlborough, Milford, Hereford, New Hanover, and possibly other neighboring townships, would temporarily ease suffering and add to the safety of disaster victims.
But some readers wondered how best to go about encouraging municipal leaders to take the first step in regionalizing disaster planning. It was pointed out that our fire and police departments work together all the time during emergencies. The proposed participants for regional disaster planning (municipal emergency management coordinators) are already in place. How best to promote the idea of coordination and cooperation before a disaster strikes?
Several suggestions pointed to government leadership and believed that local officials must recognize that the lack of a plan for an emergency shelter is a deficiency in our community’s disaster preparedness. Then understand that there is nothing currently in place to address that deficiency in a common sense, cost-effective, region-wide manner.
The leaders of one or more of the area municipalities will need to take charge and invite other leaders to that first meeting. That’s probably all it will take. But who will be the first to open the borders and begin a meaningful dialogue on this very important subject?
Some readers had good suggestions that included large, local buildings equipped with emergency generators. Most are publically owned and could be used during disasters with proper planning and agreements. Others are privately owned but still warrant being a part of the discussion.
Some readers suggested one central location for a community shelter while others suggested two (or more) locations. Both ideas have pros and cons and they should be researched.
How to address temporarily feeding and housing disaster victims is an involved process that requires careful planning. Our emergency management coordinators can meet with government groups like the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency or a service group like the American Red Cross for guidance and support.
The opportunity to do good in a time of disaster only comes with sound planning and execution of that plan.
There were people in our readership area who never lost electric service. Some lost it for two days; some lost it for two weeks. Think about what would happen to you and your family if our entire area lost electric service, at the same time, for two weeks? But don’t wait for the next power outage before you plan to do something about it. With the power off and the roads closed, where will you and your family go?
Encourage your local municipal leaders to create a community-wide disaster plan.