United Way staff presents information on Neighborhood Incident Command Centers at Emergency Preparedness Summit

Knowing what to do in the first hours of a disaster may save your life and others’ lives.

The Ready Neighborhoods Emergency Preparedness Summit provided several disaster education programs Saturday morning at the Holiday Inn, University of Memphis. During the Summit, a group of informed neighborhood leaders spoke about handling natural disasters here at home at a time when people see disasters broadcast all over the world with increasing regularity.

Loretta Hurt gets the crowd involved in talking about neighborhoods being prepared in the event of a natural disaster

Loretta Hurt, Project Manager, Strategic Initiatives and Emergency Management Liaison for United Way of the Mid-South, provided an insightful presentation about the benefits of establishing Neighborhood Incident Command Centers.

“Establishing a neighborhood incident command center in the first hours of a disaster response may help you save lives, reduce the severity of injuries, reduce incidents of panic, and decrease the amount of damage a neighborhood sustains in the event of a crisis,” Hurt said.

“The end goal for all communities is to be prepared to meet a disaster, but each neighborhood may arrive at that goal a little differently,” Hurt told the crowd.

Much of the discussion focused on the central ideas that it is important to be prepared and have backup methods of communication ready in the event a disaster occurs, when regular methods of communication like telephone or internet are down.

Memphis Mayor A C Wharton kicked off the event (and also participated in an unexpected magic show with magician Michael Clayton). Wharton cited how early results from ReadyShelby.org’s study of local emergency preparedness served as a wake up call for local leaders to help citizens understand more about disaster preparation.

Mayor AC Wharton talks about the importance of being educated as first responders in time of disaster

Those early results showed citizen awareness of what to do during and after a natural disaster was nearly non-existent. Wharton stressed the importance of all citizens having common knowledge about emergency preparedness.

“You are the first responders,” Wharton told the crowd. “You are there in your house when disaster occurs. In many instances, what the first responder does is much more important than what the second responder does. There’s the police department, rescue agencies, the fire department, but they are all second responders. What happens in life and death situations really rests in your hands. Coming up with a communications plan, learning CPR and understanding the basic things that are right in our hands and in our control are critically important.”

Gary Patterson explains earthquake readiness

Gary Patterson, Director of Education and Outreach with University of Memphis Center for Earthquake Research and Information, told the crowd about the dangers of the New Madrid fault. He explained how a large magnitude earthquake could mean massive loss of life during, and even after the event unless people knew how to respond properly.

“You have to have a plan in the event of an earthquake,” he said. “You have to find shelter, duck and cover. Today, we’re trying to figure out what the larger impacts are in the event of a natural disaster and what you have to do and how you have to be prepared.”

From left, Mayor A C Wharton, Loretta Hurt, Gary Patterson

Others who took the stage included Pat Faudree, with Richland Acres Neighborhood Association; Lt. Major McNeil  (a UW Loaned Executive) with City of Memphis Fire Services who helped with the “Neighborhoods’ Guided Discussions and Results”; Michael Fortenberry, Crisis Management Coordinator with Memphis Light Gas & Water talked about weathering nature’s fury in the home; Jennifer Price, Emergency Reserve Volunteer Coordinator  with the Shelby County Health Department gave a presentation on how citizens can help support their neighborhoods by volunteering with the Medical Reserve Corp.; Elaine Clyburn, Disaster Relief Consultant with the American Red Cross discussed the importance of disaster relief and the need for people to understand core concepts of emergency preparedness.

Neighborhood leaders can obtain a copy of the Establishing a Neighborhood Incident Command Center Guide by requesting one via email to loretta.hurt@uwmidsouth.org

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