A committee of residents, town officials and representatives from a variety of citizens advisory groups has East Hampton Town’s back the next time tragedy lurks.
The Citizens Emergency Preparedness Task Force, which formed this past summer, has been busy preparing for the next big storm or unforeseen disaster—be it natural or man-made. At their most recent meeting last week, the planners discussed the best ways to handle evacuations with regard to pets, and went over what is in place for seniors citizens who need help getting out of their homes during such emergencies.
Gary Rogers, Nassau County’s emergency animal coordinator, spoke at the meeting and gave pointers about how residents with pets can best prepare for a mass evacuation in East Hampton.
“You want to urge people to make a plan to reduce the amount of pets you have to deal with,” Mr. Rogers said during last Wednesday’s gathering. “The main thrust is education. You need to figure stuff out well ahead of time.”
Mr. Rogers, who founded the Suffolk County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, has recently joined Nassau’s chapter and has a history of preparing emergency care for animals. After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, for example, he coordinated care for the search-and-rescue dogs that were called in to help look for survivors. And during Hurricane Sandy last fall, Mr. Rogers said he helped operate the Nassau County Emergency Pet Shelter, which cared for more than 500 animals over four months.
Currently, East Hampton Town has two possible pet evacuation centers: the Montauk Playhouse, which could work as a shelter where pets and their owners could stay at the same time but separately, and at the Animal Rescue Fund of the Hamptons Pet Evacuation Center in Wainscott. If an evacuation were to happen, pets can be dropped off at the ARF facility. The American Red Cross, which operates shelters at the Montauk School, the Montauk Playhouse and East Hampton High School, does not permit pets at any of their facilities, Mr. Rogers explained.
He added that it is important to have as many cages available as possible so that if there is a mandatory evacuation, and many pets need a place to go, the crates can be stacked and shifted as needed. He added that the town can either buy the cages or residents can bring their own.
With an impending emergency, the town could ask the Humane Society of the United States for help in getting supplies for its pet shelters and find veterinarians to check dogs and cats for inoculations and disease before they enter a facility. Mr. Rogers said pets that are sick should not be turned away, but simply separated from the healthy ones.
Town Emergency Coordinator Bruce Bates said town officials should plan for themselves and not rely on Suffolk County to help them when time is of the essence. “We have to be aware of where we live,” he said. “The shelter should be a refuge of last resort.”
If a disaster occurs, ARF could assist in finding the animals permanent or foster homes if they are later abandoned.
Mr. Rogers agreed, saying that even planning on the smallest scale, like packing a go-bag for pets, can save a lot of time and worry. He noted that ideas of what to put in such a bag can be found at www.petsafecoalition.org, www.HSUS.org or www.ASPCA.org.
Diane Patrizio and Lisa Charde of the town’s Department of Human Services also spoke about those residents with special health needs, how they are helped during storms, and what the department plans to do if another emergency hits.
Humans Services now has two call lists, one for those who simply want a well-being check during a situation, like the recent snowstorm, and another for those who are not ambulatory, need help with medication or oxygen, or have an altered mental state.
Typically, people sign up for the lists through the senior center, some doctor’s offices and through Meals on Wheels visits, but now task force members want to distribute the form to all medical offices to better reach people who need the help. Alternatively, Ms. Patrizio said that those who want to be added to the special needs list should sign up by calling (631) 329-6939.
She said that if it came down to it, the senior center could take in 30 people who might need electricity for their well-being, but it would be “pushing it.”
“People come in with lots of stuff—people who are on oxygen, people who can’t sleep on cots but sleep sitting up, so they’re brought in with chairs,” she said. “But if it hits the fan, you deal with what you’ve got.”
The task force is working with the town to send out brochures, in both English and Spanish, that list all important emergency phone numbers, the locations of warming and cooling centers and shelters, as well as emergency preparedness tips.
“This is a terrific group of people who are dedicated to trying to improve our emergency preparedness,” Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell said after the meeting. “I think it’s very helpful to have that kind of public interaction and work with people who care about this, who care about making us better.”