West Point community members prepare for emergencies

By Sgt. Vincent Fusco, Dir. of Public Affairs and CommunicationOctober 2, 2009

West Point Community members prepare for emergencies
A model built by Orange & Rockland Utilities shows how a downed power line on a vehicle creates a deadly safety hazard during West Point's third annual Emergency Preparedness Fair Sept. 26. The 5,000 volts of neon voltage in the circuit creates an ar... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

Common sense says to "hope for the best and prepare for the worst." Because nobody can predict when the worst will happen, it never hurts to be ready for it. This year's Emergency Preparedness Fair gave the West Point community the chance to get ready and have some fun, too.

The third annual event Sept. 26 welcomed West Point staff and their Families to a day full of education, demonstrations, refreshments and giveaways, while encouraging safety awareness inside and out of the home.

Last year's Emergency Preparedness Fair hosted 13 agencies, according to Christine Guerriero, the "Ready Army, Ready West Point" campaign coordinator for the Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security Emergency Operations Center.

This year, about 30 agencies were involved in the event.

Organizations from West Point and the surrounding area in the fields of law enforcement, fire prevention, medical services and others met with Families who live on- and off-post to share ways to stay safe in various situations.

"These are all folks we would work with in the event of an actual emergency," Guerriero said.

The Orange County Fire Division was one of the new faces at this year's event, bringing its fire safety trailer. The trailer shows children potential safety hazards at home and how to escape from a house fire.

Puppies Behind Bars also made its first fair appearance. Families met Jasmine, a 17-month-old working dog in training, who was at the fair to learn how to be comfortable in social settings before she starts working with wounded veterans.

The fair encouraged pet safety, a new Family safety concern this year. The plight pet owners faced during Hurricane Katrina has prompted agencies to increase awareness of how to care for the Family pet in the event of an emergency.

The Cadet Amateur Radio Club also set up a display at the fair and an antenna on the roof of the Post Exchange to demonstrate how, even in the digital age of the Internet and cell phones, radio can maintain vital connections when disaster takes out landlines and cell towers.

"The basis of radio is really emergency communications," Maj. Stephen Hamilton, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science instructor and club officer-in-charge, said. "Amateur radio operators usually just talk on (their kits), but in the event of an emergency we can deploy them, in a sense, and set up our own networks."

Depending upon power settings, amateur VHF radios can broadcast at a range of 20-to-30 miles.

The club maintains its own repeater which, along with other repeaters in the region, amplifies transmissions across much greater distances.

Some club members are certified SKYWARN storm spotters, who observe severe weather and call in reports to the National Weather Service to prepare for evacuation. The club also participates in the Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service, which is designed to operate in states of national emergency.

"Everybody can get a weather radio, which is something you should have to listen to NOAA weather," Hamilton said. "Our radios can listen to those, but we can send reports as well."

In case disaster forces Families to seek shelter, Guerriero strongly encourages everyone to be prepared with a home supply kit-an on-hand supply of canned food, water, medicine, batteries and other essentials.

"Just remember every six months to go through and rotate your items," Guerriero said. "Check the expiration dates, update the medication and check the batteries' shelf life among other things."

Last year, the fair held one raffle. This year, the numerous agencies in attendance donated many prizes to the community including a three-day emergency supply bag from the American Red Cross, tickets for Eisenhower Hall events and AAFES' gift cards.

Guerriero hopes that everyone, young and old, learned something about safety and enjoyed themselves at the same time.

To sum up the theme of the day, she echoes Ready Raccoon's motto-make a kit, have a plan, and be prepared.

"Maybe after today, the kids will go home and say, 'Mom, we need to put together our emergency preparedness kit,' and, 'what would we do, where would we meet in an emergency,'" Guerriero said.