LEPC keeping public informed

Posted: Tuesday, March 25, 2003

Where are the emergency shelters in your neighborhood? What kind of bottles should emergency water be stored in? Can pets be brought to shelters?

These are some questions asked by members of the Local Emergency Planning Committee as they introduced a public information program on disaster planning the committee hopes to present to Kenai Peninsula residents this year.

The program was unveiled during a meeting of the Soldotna Rotary Club Thursday by LEPC co-chair Jonathan Pedersen, and LEPC members David Gibbs, Kenai Peninsula Borough emergency manager, and Shirley Gifford, Soldotna police chief.

"The timing is right. It's on people's minds right now," said Gifford, who told the Rotarians the LEPC planned to begin town hall-type meetings in the next couple months to help citizens become prepared in case a major disaster strikes the peninsula.

"We want to provide the right information," said Pedersen, who added that the committee will ask people at the public meetings what questions they have in terms of being prepared for an emergency.

"Don't expect anyone to help you for at least 72 hours after the disaster hits," he said.

According to Pedersen, peninsula residents should prepare to help themselves in a disaster for at least three days, advising people to have adequate food and water for each family member, and not to forget food and water for family pets.

The three committee members told the group they will advertise the public forums through similar introductory presentations to the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly and area chambers of commerce.

Though still in early planning stages, the forums are expected to be offered in town hall meetings during the next few months, peninsulawide in the fall and as in-service training for teachers in the Kenai Peninsula School District before school starts in the fall.

During a preview presentation, Gifford said types of disasters for which people will be trained to prepare include earthquakes, floods and terrorist attacks.

They will be taught what to include in an emergency kit, how to care for pets in a disaster and how to best recover from a disaster.

Also included in the program will be information on Community Emergency Response Teams, according to Gibbs.

CERT training covers disaster preparedness, mass tragedy medical training, training on determining the safety of buildings after a disaster and how to safely extricate people from buildings, Gibbs said.

He said the CERT training will be provided to groups of citizens in the community.

"It's not individual CERT training. It's about communities," Gibbs said.

In answer to questions asked at the beginning of the presentation, Gibbs said the Kenai Peninsula currently has 95 established emergency shelters. School buildings are commonly used as emergency shelters, as are churches and senior citizen centers.

Surprisingly to many in the audience, pets may not be brought to emergency shelters, according to the presenters.

Emergency water should not be stored in milk bottles or similar containers that may harbor contaminants. Water should be stored in hard, clear plastic bottles, such as thoroughly washed pop bottles or in store-bought drinking-water bottles.

During the public forums, LEPC members will provide brochures to participants on subjects ranging from creating a family disaster plan and helping children cope with disaster to food and water storage and a preparedness checklist for animals.

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