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Disaster planning is workshop's aim

| Saturday, March 29, 2003

Ross officials are organizing a seminar to tell residents what to do in case of a natural disaster or biological/chemical weapons attack.

"It's to alleviate the questions on the chaos that's out there," Commissioner Lana Mazur said. "And they'll know what to do when something happens."

The program will feature emergency management personnel from Ross, North Hills School District and the American Red Cross.

Pete Geis, Ross recreation department director, said he expects a large crowd.

Geis said that after the federal Department of Homeland Security began airing television commercials about being prepared for another terrorist attack, he started receiving telephone calls from worried residents.

Mazur said several residents also called her at home asking about preparations.

"All these different people were calling me at home asking what our police department's doing if something should happen," she said.

Mazur said the forum will give residents a place where they can get straight, accurate information.

"On TV, they said, 'Buy duct tape and plastic,' so that made all these seniors go out and buy something that doesn't work," she said. "We need to go out there and tell people that we are prepared. We've always been prepared.

Geis said some facts are little-known but important, such as the location of the municipal center, which could provide shelter.

"More of the questions people have been asking are about terrorism. If there's a biological attack in the area, what will our response be• We're on top of a hill, which is nice if it's a bio-hazard attack. We have pretty good positioning. That's only in some circumstances, however, depending on what's used."

Ernie Froess, director of emergency management for the North Hills School District, said his part of the seminar will address the school district's response. He said the district's safety plan covers two possibilities: evacuating students to a safe site and keeping them at the schools.

Froess said the district has water supplies and other necessary materials to assist in a successful "shelter-in-place" response, in which people would take refuge in a small area with few or no windows.

"Shelter-in-place is a relatively short term, meaning minutes or hours, not necessarily days," Froess said. "I think the big thing is parents want to know is 'When can I get my kid?' and that sort of thing, especially at the elementary level. During any type of shelter-in-place, if the air outside the school is safe enough for a parent to breathe, we will-- in an organized manner-- release children to their parents. It's never the school's intent to keep parent and child separated."

Geis said that the program mostly will dispel misinformation.

"We're going to have the opportunity of all these people to answer a lot of questions that a lot of people seem to have," Geis said. "We'll be a communication hub for the North Hills. We'll get the message out to the public with what has happened." Additional Information:

What's next

  • What: Emergency Planning/Disaster Preparation Workshop

  • When: 2 p.m. April 13.

  • Where: Ross Municipal Center, 1000 Ross Municipal Drive.

  • Details: Call Pete Geis at (412) 931-7055, ext. 233.

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