- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 8, 2005

D.C. residents gathered inside a Northwest community center and a church yesterday to learn how to protect themselves and their neighbors in the event of an emergency.

The neighborhood meetings, the first in a series by the District’s Emergency Management Agency, brought out about 10 residents to All Souls Unitarian Church and about 75 to the Chevy Chase Community Center.

The agency has scheduled meetings in city neighborhoods through March. In November, the agency conducted emergency exercises with residents of Wards 7 and 8.

“I think it’s time that we begin to think seriously about preparing for an emergency, especially in Washington, D.C.,” said resident Buddy Moore, 67.

Mr. Moore was greeted at the church by officials from such agencies as Metro and the city’s fire and transportation departments, who were taking part in the meetings.

At the church’s Pierce Hall, facilitator Mary Ellen Gizzie presented various emergency scenarios to residents who live in the Columbia Heights, Mount Pleasant, Pleasant Plains and Park View neighborhoods.

When she presented the scenario of a regional power outage, residents were surprised to learn that at least one of their planned responses could only make the situation worse.

“Candles are not advocated,” Ms. Gizzie said. “We really encourage mini-flashlights and lamps that are battery operated.”

Capt. Cornelius Campbell of the D.C. Fire and Emergence Medical Services Department acknowledged the problem of candles starting fires and creating more problems, but said people will still use them.

Nevertheless, he advised residents to buy batteries and flashlights, too.

Ms. Gizzie urged residents to create a personal emergency plan and talked about the first 72 hours of a disaster and about what residents should think about before an emergency hits home.

“Bring in enough food and [drinking] water and water for the toilet,” she said. “Buy the items and have them at home.”

She also focused on communicating with loved ones, keeping necessary medications, and caring for pets.

Sandra Perkins, community and business relations manager at the Emergency Management Agency, told residents one of the best ways to help a neighbor in trouble was to first recall how people learned about each in earlier times “when neighbors knew one another.”

She also emphasized the importance of community coordination centers as “one-stop shops” in neighborhoods where information can be accessed.

“They will know the senior citizen who has nobody or the person who is hearing- or visually impaired,” Ms. Perkins said. “This is really about becoming a community, again.”

After the half-day session ended, Tim Stephens, an ANC commissioner for 1B06 who has lived through several hurricanes in North Carolina, said he was impressed by the Emergency Management Agency’s basic advice.

“I liked the way they put things in simple terms, and I liked the examples of having enough water and batteries,” he said. “The step I kept moving toward was how to help neighbors. We’re going to have to share and the best comes out in people during these types of circumstances.”

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