Disaster expo offers valuable info — and swag, too

Visitors to the Pasco County Disaster Expo could find answers to nearly any question they had about preparing for a disaster, and responding in the aftermath.

And, they could also load up on all sorts of freebies.

Ralph McCullough, president of the Gulf Coast ARC, says that amateur radio operators can provide a vital source of communication to help keep information flowing during and after disasters. (B.C. Manion)

They could pick up a can of Chef Boyardee Beef Ravioli and a gallon of water, courtesy of Pasco County Walmart stores.

At other expo tables, they could pick up a rain poncho, a waterproof cellphone protector, hand sanitizer, a keychain, a notebook, pens, reusable tote bags, insect repellent and bookmarks, among other things.

Throughout the expo, there were people waiting to provide information aimed at helping to prepare for a possible disaster, what to do when a disaster threatens and where to turn for help in the aftermath.

There were booklets, fact sheets and plastic cards chock-full of information aimed at helping, and there were plenty of people on-hand to field questions and provide answers.

Melinda Velez, manager of community impact initiatives for United Way of Pasco County, was on-hand at the expo to remind residents that calling 2-1-1 is a good option when people need information about resources that can help during the aftermath of a flood, high winds or other disasters.

Ralph McCullough, president of the Gulf Coast ARC, was one of the people working a booth. He was there to share how his organization of amateur ham radio operators can help when a disaster strikes.

“We can provide emergency communications back and forth to the shelters, get messages through for medical reasons, general welfare reasons. If the whole infrastructure is down, we can put our personnel into fire trucks, ambulances, what have you,” McCullough said.

That kind of help was provided during Hurricane Katrina and when the Twin Towers went down on Sept. 11, he said.

Pasco County has 37 registered members who were prepared to help during Hurricane Irma last year.

If there had been a direct hit, there were 70 radio operators on standby to help in case the whole infrastructure went down, he said.

Melinda Velez, manager of community impact initiatives for the United Way of Pasco, was at the expo, too, handing out 2-1-1 cards to remind residents that the number can help people find resources quickly to respond to their needs when a disaster strikes.

County officials have plenty of vehicles to use when the area is hit by high winds, flooding or both.

The booth was also giving out a freebie: A small kit containing first-aid bandages and disposable towelettes.

Being prepared is important, Velez said. “Last year was one for the record. Most of New Port Richey was on evacuation.”

Frankie Gulledge, an underground crew chief for the Withlacoochee River Electric Cooperative Inc., was there, too.

He demonstrated the dangers involved in having contact with overhead electrical lines and downed power lines.

His message? Keep your distance from overhead electrical lines and downed power lines.

Outside of the expo hall, there was an assortment of emergency vehicles, which can clear out debris, drive through high waters and be used in water rescues, among other things.

Useful numbers
These Pasco County numbers could prove useful in the aftermath of a disaster:

Customer service: (727) 847-2411

Emergency Management: (727) 847-8137

Human Services: (727) 834-3297

Pasco County Sheriff’s Non-Emergency Number: (727) 847-8102

United Way: 2-1-1

Website: PascoCountyFl.net

Emergency supply list

  • One gallon of water per day per person for at least three days
  • A three-day supply of nonperishable food and a can opener to open canned foods
  • Battery-powered or hand crank radio, and a N.O.A.A. Weather Radio with tone alert and extra batteries
  • First-aid kit
  • Whistle to signal for help
  • Dust mask to help filter contaminated air and plastic
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
  • Local maps

Other items to consider for emergency supply kit

  • Prescription medications and eyeglasses
  • Infant formula and diapers
  • Important family documents stored in a waterproof plastic container, including insurance policies, identification and bank account information
  • Cash
  • Sleeping bag or blanket for each person
  • Change of clothing
  • Games for kids

Source: FEMA, Ready.gov

Published June 13, 2018

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