Hurricane Florence Pushes Officials To Urge Preparedness

Published: September 14, 2018 at 08:50 am


As the “monster” Hurricane Florence swirled and gathered strength off the Carolinas September 12, officials and agencies from the local Newtown Health District, Connecticut’s Better Business Bureau, and Americares to the American Red Cross and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) were all communicating a uniform message: be prepared.

September is Preparedness Month, and coverage of the looming hurricane that was expected to make landfall in the Carolinas sometime between Friday and Saturday lent a heightened sense of urgency to advisories many agencies were issuing.

Newtown Health District Director and Deputy Emergency Management Director Donna Culbert said local responders have taken lessons from the storms that have battered the community, especially over the last five to seven years.

“Newtown’s Emergency Management team worked day and night with all of its key community partners in response to the May 15 macroburst that wreaked havoc on many parts of town,” Ms Culbert told The Newtown Bee. “The mission always is to save lives and property, minimize injury and damage, minimize interruption of services, and ultimately to recover as efficiently as possible.”

While Ms Culbert said the road to recovery has been long for some residents, businesses, and neighborhoods, local responders from Newtown’s five fire companies, its police, EMS, communications, first selectman, public works, Parks & Recreation, health district, and schools have held meetings to debrief on the event and response. Those meetings were held on June 6, with a follow-up on July 24.

Ms Culbert said several items and tasks were identified to improve the team’s response in the future. Officials also discussed how to better monitor travel and storm-related disruptions along Newtown’s 275 miles of roads.

“The work toward those improvements is underway,” she assured. “The team reports that the community responded well. Residents were great about looking out for and helping each other. Such an abundance of care, concern, quick thinking, and the willingness and generosity to help others made a remarkable difference.”

As work toward even better preparedness for Newtown and its residents continues, local officials provided the following punch list of things they ask community members to do and review:

*Sign-up to receive Code Red communications from the town at, and be sure to include a cell phone;

*Sign-up for town News and Announcements;

*Have a communication plan for family, neighbors, friends, work — the circle of people in your life;

*Have a kit, so you can manage your family and pets for three to five days;

*Understand your medical needs, and have an up-to-date list of medications at the ready; and

*Have a plan to manage any medications or health equipment if they need particular storage or support (refrigeration may require a generator). Discuss this with your health care provider.

Be The Help

These advisories mirror information that is being issued by FEMA, whose representative and Federal Coordinating Officer Nick Russo recently talked with The Newtown Bee.

Mr Russo highlighted the fact that residents need to be prepared year-round, not just in the days and hours before a predicted storm or other event arrives.

“I think one of the things we see consistently is, folks plan for some type of specific event,” he said. “Obviously, I think a lot of people in Connecticut were caught by surprise in mid-May when they had macrobursts and tornadoes right in their own backyards. So what is the plan if something like that happens when the kids are in school? What is the reunification plan?

“It can reduce a lot of stress if folks just paid a little more attention to preparedness with their own family,” Mr Russso said. The former career firefighter and emergency management professional from the Boston area took on a second career with FEMA 17 years ago and has seen a lot of what Mother Nature has thrown at southern New England over nearly five decades.

Mr Russo not only stressed preparedness to help protect human life and safety, but also to preserve critical personal health and financial documents that might be needed to help expedite everything from prescription refills to filing insurance and possibly even FEMA damage claims.

“We have a website,, that will help walk people through a process of what to do and how to take care of themselves, their families, and their neighbors,” Mr Russo said.

Year-Round Readiness

Connecticut Better Business Bureau (BBB) reminds residents that National Preparedness Month has been held annually every September since 2004.

National Preparedness Month is sponsored by FEMA within the Department of Homeland Security and is part of a governmental effort to increase the overall number of individuals, families, and communities that engage in preparedness actions.

Among the points BBB makes is learning basic home maintenance skills. Learn how to turn off utilities like natural gas and electricity and how to test and replace smoke alarms.

BBB also suggests residents be financially prepared for any type of disaster. Consider saving money and storing it in an emergency savings account, as well as leaving a small amount of cash at home in a safe place.

The American Red Cross offers a downloadable Emergency App that can help find shelter information and provides weather and emergency alerts for more than 35 different situations.

Red Cross disaster officials remind residents that getting prepared is actually easier than it sounds if they follow these three basic steps:

*Get A Kit. Pack a gallon of water per person, per day; non-perishable food; flashlight; hand-crank or battery-powered radio; extra batteries; sanitation and personal hygiene items; copies of important papers; extra cash; and any medical or baby supplies family members may need in an easy-to-carry container.

*Make A Plan. Have all members of the household devise an emergency plan. Consider what emergencies could happen, what to do if you are separated, and how you will let loved ones know you are safe.

*Be Informed. Find out how local authorities will let you know an emergency is happening. Make sure at least one household member is trained in first aid and CPR in case help is delayed during a disaster. You can also download the Red Cross First Aid App at

Hate Hurricanes?

Stamford-based Americares has also launched a national disaster preparedness campaign to raise awareness and critical funding to help communities stay safe and recover faster. The “We Hate Hurricanes” campaign will run through the end of September to highlight the need for families to prepare for future emergencies.

Americares responds to an average of 30 natural disasters and humanitarian crises worldwide each year, establishes long-term recovery projects, and brings disaster preparedness programs to vulnerable communities.

The organization has a long history of responding to severe storms in the United States. Since its founding nearly 40 years ago, Americares has provided more than $15 billion in aid to 164 countries, including the United States.

On September 10, Americares began deploying a response team to North Carolina as Hurricane Florence intensified off the coast. The health-focused relief and development organization is also contacting partner health clinics in North and South Carolina and Virginia with offers of assistance.

For more information on Americares’ “We Hate Hurricanes” campaign or to download the Five Steps to Ready preparedness checklist, go to


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