We all know someone who was deeply affected by Hurricane Sandy, people who lost their homes, who lost everything. We all have friends or family who, even two weeks after the storm, are without heat and electricity and telephones. We all know how fortunate we were here in Woodhaven, but we also know that something similarly catastrophic could easily happen here in the future.
Every individual and/or family is responsible for their own disaster preparedness. In January, the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association hosted a presentation given by the American Red Cross on disaster preparedness, and we hope that our members who attended were prepared, had their “go bags” packed, and their emergency supplies close at hand.
However, beyond our personal preparation, how prepared are we as a community for a major disaster? In the wake of Hurricane Sandy we were able to mobilize quickly and efficiently because we had an excellent communications network in place and, for the most part, we didn’t lose electricity. Likewise, we didn’t lose our phone service and we kept our connection to the Internet.
But what if a catastrophic disaster hit Woodhaven and we lost everything? No power. No lights. No telephone. No gas for our stoves, no heat for our homes. No Internet and no cell phones. What if relief sites with food and electricity were set up on Woodhaven Boulevard but you lived on 75th Street, how would you find out about it?
We saw this firsthand when we went down into Howard Beach and Hamilton Beach in the early days after Sandy hit. Many residents who lived near the relief site knew that there was food and clothing and supplies available. But one of the residents came and asked us to do what we could to spread the word to residents on the other end of the neighborhood. There were hundreds and hundreds of people just six or seven blocks away that had no idea that help was so close.
So, turning back to Woodhaven, how will we communicate news and information to one another if all of our usual avenues of communication are suddenly stripped away from us? This, and other discussions of planning ahead, will be the main topic of conversation at this month’s Woodhaven Town Hall meeting, taking place on Saturday, November 17, at 1 p.m. at the Woodhaven-Richmond Hill Volunteer Ambulance Corps, 78-15 Jamaica Avenue.
This will be an open discussion, a brainstorming session, and we are asking residents to come to the meeting with ideas on how we could be better prepared. Over the past two weeks in the office of the WRBA, as our volunteers have been sorting through the massive amount of supplies donated by very generous Woodhaven residents, some good ideas were introduced and fleshed out. And they will be discussed at this meeting.
Just like making sure you have flashlights handy or a tank full of gas, attending this meeting and being part of the discussion is part of being prepared.
On a final note, the WRBA wishes again to extend its thanks to all of the residents who volunteered time and energy, as well as those residents and businesses that donated clothing, food, supplies or even just a ride in your car. It was heartwarming to see so many residents come out and take part in this relief effort.
And a special thanks to all who came out and joined the WRBA, Maria Thomson of the Woodhaven Business Improvement District, and Father Frank Tumino of St. Thomas as we held a Flashlight Vigil on Friday night. The event was a great success, and we collected over 120 flashlights in about 30 minutes. Well done, Woodhaven!