PrepareAthon: Smyrna residents get chance today to prepare for natural disasters under FEMA program
by Leo Hohmann
March 22, 2014 04:00 AM | 3789 views | 0 0 comments | 24 24 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Smyrna Firefighters led by Kenneth Durden and Jay Ratliff, left, and Trevor Freeman, right, transport a volunteer patient through the hallways of Emory Adventist Hospital on Friday as part of national PrepareAthon event to test emergency services in a time of natural disaster. Smyrna is also preparing a family expo today to help residents prepare for a crisis. <br>Staff/Kelly J. Huff</br>
Smyrna Firefighters led by Kenneth Durden and Jay Ratliff, left, and Trevor Freeman, right, transport a volunteer patient through the hallways of Emory Adventist Hospital on Friday as part of national PrepareAthon event to test emergency services in a time of natural disaster. Smyrna is also preparing a family expo today to help residents prepare for a crisis.
Staff/Kelly J. Huff
slideshow
Respiratory Therapy Coordinator James Brunty and ICU Coordinator Cheryl Canty triage a volunteer patient at Emory Adventist Hospital Friday during a mock tornado disaster drill as part of a national PrepareAthon event to test emergency services in a time of natural disaster. Patients were moved to the hallways away from windows and transported to waiting ambulances down flights of stairs as part of the scenario observed by FEMA and other emergency agencies.<br> Staff/Kelly J. Huff </br>
Respiratory Therapy Coordinator James Brunty and ICU Coordinator Cheryl Canty triage a volunteer patient at Emory Adventist Hospital Friday during a mock tornado disaster drill as part of a national PrepareAthon event to test emergency services in a time of natural disaster. Patients were moved to the hallways away from windows and transported to waiting ambulances down flights of stairs as part of the scenario observed by FEMA and other emergency agencies.
Staff/Kelly J. Huff
slideshow
SMYRNA — The city of Smyrna is taking its role as a FEMA poster child for disaster preparedness seriously.

The city held a tornado drill geared toward businesses Friday at Emory Adventist Hospital and today it will unveil its “PrepareAthon” campaign geared toward families and individual residents.

This will be just the first of many “preparedness action events” in the months ahead, said Roy Acree, Smyrna’s deputy fire chief.

He said Smyrna is planning to conduct two events per year as the first city to embrace the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s PrepareAthon program.

Today’s event will focus mostly on tornadoes, floods and hurricanes, and how to prepare your family, including pets.

A clear message will be sent: Don’t think police or firefighters will come to your rescue within minutes, hours, or possibly even days. Self-sufficiency is the watchword.

“One message from a public safety perspective is, we’re very proud that we have a very fast response time, typically, but in the event of a disaster we are overwhelmed and that’s why it’s so important to be prepared because you might have to take care of yourselves for 36 to 72 hours.”

The winter storm that hit Cobb in January was a good example. Roads were clogged, cell service went down and people were stranded in their cars for up to 24 hours in the freezing cold.

Acree was in Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina struck that area in 2005, when people were left stranded for days.

“I was down there for a month. I’ve been deployed to many federal disaster areas over my career, but that one had a scale and an experience I’ll never forget,” Acree said.

How to store food, other essentials

Those attending today’s event at Smyrna Elementary School will learn how to store basic food supplies and water, how to shelter in place and stay in communication with loved ones without overloading cell towers.

The District Attorney’s Office will be on hand to talk about how to store one’s documents safely using digital storage in the “cloud.”

Safe America, a nonprofit, will share information on its “text first, talk second” campaign to prevent the loss of cell signals.

Another sponsor will be TruPrep, a Marietta-based retailer at 1000 Cobb Parkway North that sells survival and camping supplies including food-storage systems, solar cooking appliances, survival kits or “bug out bags,” grain mills, and water filters, among other items.

“They have a great deal to offer about this,” Acree said. “We might have them talk about storm shelters. In the event of a disaster public safety is not going to be there in three and a half minutes. It might be three and a half days.

“It’s a back to basics type of thing. People just need a little bit of information and a little bit of practice.”

Cobb-Douglas Public Health will be on hand to give information on the shelf life of various foods and bottled water.

Acree said Smyrna has assembled a committee of about a dozen people who will be coming up with ideas for future preparedness events.

One possibility: What if the Internet went down for an extended period of time because of a solar flair or cyber attack? That would basically shut down the economy, since almost every business is now reliant on the Internet to one extent or another. Food would quickly empty from store shelves, leaving families to fend for themselves, at least for a time.

“That’s exactly the type of thing we’ll be looking at,” Acree said. “To have information is great and to have a plan is even better but to put that plan into action is best. We just want to reach out and encourage people to come up with a plan of action.”

Smyrna serving as model for nation

Acree said the city of Smyrna will be sharing all of its successes and its failures with FEMA as it continues to break new ground in its drive to be a prepared city. FEMA will take that information and share it with other communities that want to become prepared.

“From FEMA’s perspective, what Smyrna is doing is the model that they would like to carry to all the communities throughout the nation,” Acree said. “We’re the first community in the nation to wholly embrace Preparathon and make it our own.”

He said city emergency management officials will be reaching out to businesses, civic organizations, youth groups, faith-based groups, families and individuals.

WANT TO GO?

● Today’s “PrepareAthon” is at Smyrna Elementary School, 1099 Fleming St. off of Atlanta Road, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

● There will be games, food trucks, ice cream, a bounce house for kids and lots of information on how to prepare for the next big disaster, whether that be a hurricane, flood or tornado.

● For more information: Go online at ReadySmyrna.com

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