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News Promoting Disaster Preparedness for Delaware's Aging Population

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Several event attendees are guided through the technical details of Sussex County's Smart911 systems with the help of IPA student Sade Bruce.

​Sade Bruce (right), a graduate public administration fellow at the Institute for Public Administration, guides event attendees through the technical aspects of registering for the City of Lewes' CodeRED and Sussex County's Smart911 systems. Photo by Danielle Swallow.

Introduction

Through a partnership between the School of Public Policy and Administration's Institute for Public Administration (IPA) and the Sustainable Coastal Communities Initiative, Delaware's Cape Region residents had the opportunity to learn about area disaster relief and emergency planning initiatives.

IPA staff members Julia O’Hanlon and Nicole Minni helped plan and facilitate the event. Julia facilitated a participant polling session during the event related to emergency planning and her work on aging friendly communities. Several undergraduate and graduate students provided technical assistance to individuals interested in signing up for the City of Lewes’ CodeRED and/or Sussex County’s Smart911 systems. The event was highlighted in the October 15, 2018 edition of the Cape Gazette featured below.

IPA staff member Julia O'Hanlon speaks with a microphone to the crowd during the Smart911 registration event.

IPA Policy Scientist Julia O'Hanlon (left) conducted a live poll of participants to gauge the emergency readiness of event attendees. Danielle Swallow (right), a coastal hazard specialist with Delaware Sea Grant, presented on the importance of emergency planning for older adults and people with disabilities especially. Photo by Nick Roth/Cape Gazette.

Cape Region officials urge disaster preparedness

Delaware may be the luckiest state on the Eastern Seaboard. For the last 100 years, the lowest-lying state in the country has been spared a direct hit by a hurricane. But luck will run out one day, and state and local officials want the Cape Region’s residents to be ready. 

“You’ve built a life for yourself here,” said Danielle Swallow, a coastal hazard specialist with Delaware Sea Grant. “You’ve worked really hard to get into the place you are today, living in a community like Lewes. Now protect the life you’ve built.” 

Swallow was one of several presenters at a Sept. 21 workshop about emergency planning for older adults and people with disabilities. Many of the tips and information presented apply to all area residents.

Lewes Mayor Ted Becker said there are a few simple steps to prepare. Lewes residents can sign up for CodeRED, an emergency notification system to alert property owners and residents of information you need to know in the event of local emergencies or disruptions in service. CodeRED is also available in Milton. All Sussex County residents can sign up for Smart911, a supplemental data service that allows you to create a safety profile that can be seen by emergency responders when you call 911. All information could be vital in the case of an emergency. 

Swallow said it’s important to have a emergency plan in case disaster strikes suddenly. That often involves a plan for pets, Becker said.

“Your animals are a big part of being prepared for an emergency,” he said. “Animals are a very big part of our lives, especially those of us who live alone.” 

Becker said many people affected by Hurricane Florence in September opted to stay because they didn’t want to leave their pets. Others decided to leave them behind. Hundreds of pets were rescued in the Carolinas, including several dozen that were transported to Delaware. 

The state hazard mitigation plan’s top two potential hazards are coastal flooding and storms, both tropical storms and nor’easters. For those who live along the coast, the people most likely affected by coastal storms, Swallow said, it’s extremely important to be prepared. 

Sometimes you can’t avoid the disruption, like a hurricane, she said, but being prepared can make it manageable and speed up the time to recover.

Tips include having an emergency kit, setting up a safety plan to contact loved ones, establishing a plan for pets and protecting valuables. 

For residents in flood-prone areas, she said, it is very important to have flood insurance.

“I know it can be costly, but it’s an important safety net,” Swallow said. 

After Hurricane Harvey in Houston, she said the people who had federal flood insurance received an average of $113,000, while those who did not received just $4,000 on average. 

“Consider 1 inch of water in your house can cause $25,000 worth of damage,” she said. “It’s important to plan ahead and have insurance.”

Chatham Marsch, a Lewes police officer and Rehoboth firefighter, urged people to heed the warnings of emergency officials and evacuate when asked. Officials typically give 48- to 72-hour notice of evacuation, he said.

“We ask you to leave, but we can’t make you,” he said. “Don’t get offended when I ask for your nearest relative and a phone number.” 

Joe Thomas, director of Sussex County Emergency Operations Center for the last 21 years, said the county has more than 40 potential shelter locations, typically high schools. However, he said, people want to avoid going to shelters. 

“If you have the ability and you’ve got the time, you should have a plan in place,” he said. “Go to friends or family outside the area. Go to a hotel. You don’t want to wait until the last minute and think you’re going to get out on the road and out of harm’s way because I guarantee you won’t be the only one out there.”

Originally featured in the Cape Gazette. Cape Gazette article by Nick Roth.

About the Institute for Public Administration

The University of Delaware’s Institute for Public Administration (IPA) addresses the policy, planning, and management needs of its partners through the integration of applied research, professional development, and the education of tomorrow’s leaders.

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Institute for Public Administration staff and students helped Delaware's Cape Region residents learn about area disaster relief and emergency planning initiatives.

Through a partnership between the School of Public Policy and Administration's Institute for Public Administration (IPA) and the Sustainable Coastal Communities Initiative, Delaware's Cape Region residents had the opportunity to learn about area disaster relief and emergency planning initiatives.

10/16/2018
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