Many of the parents attending the Pleasantdale Parent-Teacher Association membership meeting last week laughed and nodded, knowing exactly what Captain Wannemacher was talking about when he referred to the dreaded, "milk and bread run" that everyone does at ShopRite before a storm. Wannemacher then assured that after his presentation, we would all be able to go to Shoprite before a storm for pure entertainment.
The hour-long presentation at Pleasantdale was conducted by the West Orange volunteer Community Emergency Response Team, (C.E.R.T.).
The purpose of the presentation was to teach families how to prepare for natural disasters, technological failure or terrorist attacks. The lecture consisted of common sense but some of the concepts were brand new.
"I would never have thought about the out-of-state contact before this [presentation]," said Joanne Pollara, Pleasantdale principal. The out-of-state contact is a person designated by you and known by your family and friends to be the one focal person to call in a case of disaster.
"After the New Jersey earthquake in 2011, I tried to call my friend," Wannemacher told the audience, "but the grid was full and I could not call locally. However, I got through to an out of state friend."
The idea behind the out-of-state contact is that you will call a person who lives out of state, letting them know you are OK and they can reach out to your friends and family in the area relaying the message. The out-state-contact should be outside of the tri-state area so that if it is a large scale disaster he/she will not have been impacted.
The audience also got practical information on what to keep in their family’s "Go Bag." On site there was a sample of a "Go Bag" and plenty of information to take home and talk to your family about.
The presentation, though, had started a few days earlier in the classroom. Students worked on crossword puzzles and word searches. It culminated with a take home quiz for the parents, all in an effort to start the discussion of disaster preparedness in the home.
The initiative of having the C.E.R.T. team presentation at the Pleasantdale PTA meeting was coordinated by one of the Pleasantdale PTA parents, Elizabeth Dunlea, who is also a C.E.R.T. member. It kicked off the Pleasantdale PTA lecture series and was well worth it.
"It was extremely informative!" said one of the parents, Heather Payne, who came out to the meeting as her first venture out since having her new babies. She attended after information was sent home in her daughter’s backpack. "I saw it, read through it, and felt I had to go get more information. I wish there would be a way to get this information out to all the parents."
The Pleasantdale PTA lecture series continues next month with a collaboration of the Pleasantdale PTA, the West Orange Police Department and NY Life. At that presentation, the school's families will be able to leave with a Child ID kit for their children.
For the C.E.R.T. team this is not the last school they will reach out to. If you have the opportunity to sit in on one of their presentations, do so. Then we can all meet at ShopRite before the next snowstorm for the entertainment rather than the stress.