When Tropical Storm Irene was shutting down power and tearing up roads in 2011, people were bused to a firehouse where they expected to be met by disaster volunteers.
It was empty, and officials learned volunteers weren’t able to get there due to closed roads and bridges.
If there were sufficient local volunteers at the time, the Huntersland firehouse may have been able to welcome those evacuees.
In an effort to improve self-sufficiency in the face of disaster, emergency management officials are planning a June event aimed at anybody with some time to volunteer.
The county’s Emergency Management Office and the American Red Cross of Northeastern New York are partnering to present a Community Resilience and Preparedness forum.
Emergency management director Kevin Neary said the recent tornado in Oklahoma, which has drawn disaster response volunteers from throughout the country, demonstrates trained volunteers aren’t abundant.
Neary said the Red Cross approached his office with the idea of a partnership to make Schoharie County residents available in times of emergency and it sounded like a good idea.
“The idea is to train people on what they should do in response to emergency and disaster, but at the same time take a look at the things we all need to look at to recover,” Neary said.
High winds that hit Schoharie County bring to mind the devastating tornadoes hitting the Midwest, and Neary said the mass devastation he sees there shows the need for trained people can be so critical.
“So what we want to do is become a little more self-reliant, train people around the county in communities so if we ever had to call on them in a disaster, they would have the knowledge, skills and ability to help,” Neary said.
Neary said local community groups such as the post-flood recovery organization SALT, social service organizations and others have already been invited, and the general public represents an important stakeholder as well.
The three-hour forum planned for June 5 will include a discussion on subjects like how to establish a network of local volunteers, different types of community-based disaster preparation programs, and working with higher needs populations such as the elderly and disabled.
Neary said it’s often a struggle to maintain a solid list of volunteers for periodic emergencies because many people are already giving their time.
“There are lot of people in this county, and in other counties throughout New York state that volunteer their time for many causes. We want to look at getting people interested in helping us prepare for emergency,” he said.
“It’s always a challenge. People give a lot of their time and now we’re asking them to give more. But I think they’ll find it rewarding.”
WHAT: Schoharie County community Resilience and Preparedness Forum, plus luncheon
WHEN: Wednesday, June 5, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
WHERE: Maranatha Family Center, 1461 State Route 7, Richmondville
MORE INFO: RSVP to 518-295-2276 by Thursday