Natural Disasters Are Closer Threat Than Terrorism
The November meeting of the Dutch Kills Civic Association (DKCA) was given over almost entirely to Michael Den Dekker, quartermaster of the city Office of Emergency Management and whose reputation as an indefatigable spokesman for emergency planning and evacuation must by now be widespread and quite impressive. DKCA President Jerry Walsh said that Den Dekker’s talk about what to do in response to natural, technological or belligerent disasters would take about 45 minutes. The speaker took all of that, issuing a torrent of information without resort to notes and with never a hint of repetition, except, perhaps, to lend emphasis to a point he was making.
He said that the city OEM was begun by Mayor Rudolph Giuliani to stem rivalry between the Police and Fire Departments. The OEM was originally located in 7 World Trade Tower, which collapsed late in the day of Sept. 11, 2001, a collateral victim of the Twin Towers’ destruction. It has since perhaps been popularly associated with relief from terrorism, real or anticipated, but Den Dekker said that at present, terrorism is last on the office’s list of priorities. We could be attacked again, he said, but there are preventive measures at our disposal that might foil terrorists’ plans. On the other hand, if a hurricane headed our way, it might give us plenty of warning but we would be unable to stop it and could only deal with it and the consequences of its occurrence. Weather events and disasters such as fires and blackouts are considered more likely to occur than terrorism, and may even be inevitable so far as the OEM is concerned.
Disasters, Den Dekker said, can be large or small and can compel you, the disaster victim, to evacuate your residence or, in certain circumstances, be confined to it. A small disaster is disaster enough if you are one of its victims. Den Dekker said such an event is likely to be sudden and force you to make a quick decision that will change your normal situation for some time to come. If, for instance, your residence is on fire, you have only seconds to decide when, by what route and with what property you must make your escape; and of critical importance, if it applies, is consideration of others living with you. Den Dekker said that a quick evacuation should be followed by a regroupment plan, which has necessarily been determined in advance among family or group members; otherwise, the situation could become chaotic.
Any address about disaster preparation always comes around to the “go-bag,” the case of vitally necessary items that should be kept on hand in preparation for an emergency situation. At the DKCA meeting, Den Dekker stressed the simplicity of the go-bag, naming the fundamental items it should contain: bottled water, a small amount of non-perishable foods (if canned, have a manual opener), a flashlight (batteries not installed when not in use), a battery-operated radio (AM necessary, FM optional) for instructions transmitted from emergency broadcasts, an extra set of vital keys, credit and ATM cards and at least $50 in cash, a small first aid kit and a police whistle. There are other important items (copies or records of valuable documents, medications), and the list could be expanded to include clothing and other items, but the speaker was referring to ground-floor essentials; he said his bare-bones items would be water, flashlight, whistle and radio. He was, in fact, carrying the latter three that night, having carried them always since 9/11.
“Nothing like this was in place in New York City 10 years ago,” Den Dekker said, and he recognizes that people used to routines and averse to change are reluctant to accept a new situation, but it’s his job to proclaim it. He ended his evening by passing around tiny plastic flashlights, each with tiny battery, perhaps suggesting his audience get its go-bags started.
Walsh kept the rest of the meeting brief. He said that on Friday, November 18, DKCA would have a meeting with Amanda Burden, director of the Department of City Planning, about zoning in Dutch Kills. He hoped that at next month’s meeting, Thursday, December 8, he could have Planning personnel in attendance, even Burden herself. He announced that new holiday banners would be mounted late this month in the 36th Avenue shopping area, the old ones being badly worn after eight years of service. He held up a current Dutch Kills brochure and said that the board had chosen to compose a more attractive one with funds from a $6,000 grant obtained for the group by state Senator George Onorato. That, he added, would be in preference to spending the money on the production of newsletters.
Walsh said also that when Inspector David Barrere stepped down after several years as commander of the 114th Police Precinct, having been reassigned to Brooklyn, he was given a going-away ceremony by DKCA and presented with a Dutch Kills clock. Part of the area covered by the 114th Preccinct lies within the bounds of Dutch Kills.