911: Get ready, Richmond

Day-long conference offers tips to seniors, caregivers on emergency preparation

By Kevin Spradlin
PeeDeePost.com

HAMLET — Emergencies are bad, but emergencies are much more easily handled if there is a personal emergency plan in place — one that includes a contingency plan in case Plan A goes awry.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Mary Donny explained the role of North Carolina Emergency Management in emergency situations.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Mary Donny explained the role of North Carolina Emergency Management in emergency situations.

Nearly 100 area seniors and caregivers joined public safety officials at Cole Auditorium at Richmond Community College on Thursday for a six-hour seminar series of lectures and games on how to best prepared for what might come.

Discussions ranged from the predictable, such as a winter weather event Richmond County experienced in February, to the unpredictable.

Linda Collins is supervisor of the crisis team at the Richmond County Department of Social Services. In that role, Collins oversees the opening of emergency shelters such as the ones in Ellerbe and Rockingham that were in operation in February for the winter storms.

Collins said Richmond County doesn’t have too many events in which to open emergency shelters, so each one is a learning experience. February’s operation was no different.

“You don’t have to stay home in the cold,” Collins said is her general message to seniors and others in need in times of severe winter weather. “There is transportation available.”

Collins said many county residents were unaware there was transportation available to take them to Mineral Springs Elementary School in Ellerbe or Richmond Senior High School in Rockingham.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Nearly 100 individuals registered for the inaugural emergency planning session Thursday at Cole Auditorium in Hamlet. The event was organized by the Lumber River Council of Governments.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Nearly 100 individuals registered for the inaugural emergency planning session Thursday at Cole Auditorium in Hamlet. The event was organized by the Lumber River Council of Governments.

Collins and others spoke of the importance of advanced planning. Even when it’s not yet known what will go wrong, a basic emergency kit — even a list of things to be sure and bring — can have a lasting impact on calming one’s nerves. Some residents showed up at the February shelter having forgotten their walkers, she said.

Anne Oglesby, of the sponsoring Lumber River Council of Governments Area Agency on Aging, emphasized the importance of residents filling out a two-sided, one-page Special Needs Individual Registry Form with Richmond County Emergency Services Department. On that form, individuals can identify special needs ranging from language to pets to health and mobility issues, Oblesby said.

The form can be updated as often as necessary and maintained on file with Donna Wright, county director of emergency services on South Hancock Street.

Collins said while she hopes those in need take advantage of shelters prior to conditions getting dangerous, she’s hopeful people will call whenever there’s a need.

Wright was excited about the turnout. She said organizers had hoped for up to 70 and received about 30 percent more than that in registrations for the seminar, which was free to attend. The audience particularly enjoyed an emergency-themed version of The Family Feud, and Wright said it was helpful to have an engaged, participatory group.

“They were a fun crowd,” Wright said. “They’re very opinionated. They’re going to tell you what’s on their minds.”

Many in the audience had cellphones and even smartphones. Mary Donny, of North Carolina Emergency Management, encouraged each of them to download the free app “ReadyNC.” Through the app, Donny said, residents — of any age — can stay updated on emergency road closures and hazards, evacuations, open shelters, power outages and more.

Filed in: Featured News, Latest Headlines, News, Public safety

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