On May 21, the Emergency Preparedness Task Force hosted a brown-bag talk on “Community Disaster Preparedness” in the South Common Room of River Park Mutual Homes. The guest speakers, Ms. Amanda Reidelbach, disaster relief & volunteers coordinator of the Virginia Department of Emergency Management, and Ms. Kim McCall, community outreach and engagement specialist with the District of Columbia Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency, addressed a small group of interested SW residents. They shared lively accounts of the impact of the August 23, 2011, 5.5 earthquake on the local Virginia community of Louisa County and throughout the DC area. One key point both speakers stressed is that local emergency managers and first responders will be extremely busy in the first several hours and days of any sort of disaster, let alone a very large event. They underscored the absolute need for everyone in the Washington, DC metropolitan area and beyond to be ready for any kind of natural disaster, especially ones that give no notice whatsoever. The simple mission of the SW Emergency Preparedness Task Force is to urge everyone to take their safety seriously and prepare for disaster situations like floods, severe storms, power outages, earthquakes, hurricanes, and even tornadoes. Key resources for individual and family preparedness are here: www.ready.gov. For more DC-specific information see: http://hsema.dc.gov. Sign up for DC  emergency information here: http://alert.dc.gov and for specific DC evacuation information and maps:  http://ddot.dc.gov.

DC is not disaster immune! The Bloomingdale neighborhood, in particular, has suffered through several serious floods in the past few years. In a spirited and very positive community meeting also on May 21, task force co-chairs Thelma Jones and Ben Curran participated in a discussion with several residents of the Bloomingdale neighborhood about the coordination that took place after the September 2012 Bloomingdale floods. The event included the screening of a short film “Neighbor to Neighbor: The Bloomingdale Story”—funded in part by the National Geographic Climate and Urban System Partnership. The film depicted the flood damage in the neighborhood and showed how neighbors helped each other through the flood clean-up—a heartwarming and encouraging story which fortunately for all of us is actually quite common after disasters. In the discussion after the film, the residents of Bloomingdale and Southwest happily agreed to work together promoting basic disaster preparedness planning in our respective neighborhoods, and throughout the city. Our next step is to invite some of the Bloomindale residents to a future community discussion in SW in September—National Emergency Preparedness Month.

By: Ben Curran

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