Key lessons from Sandy include importance of texting

RACHEL YOUNG PHOTO | Southold Town emergency coordinator Lloyd Reisenberg addresses East Marion residents at Saturday's "Southold Town Responds to Sandy" event at the East Marion Fire House.
RACHEL YOUNG PHOTO | Southold Town emergency coordinator Lloyd Reisenberg addresses East Marion residents at Saturday’s ‘Southold Town Responds to Sandy’ event in East Marion.

Emergency preparedness and the importance of embracing mobile technology — especially the use of text messages — were major topics of discussion at the “Southold Town Responds to Lessons from Sandy” event Saturday at the East Marion firehouse.

The free, two-hour presentation included talks by Southold Town emergency coordinator Lloyd Reisenberg and Joanna Lane, an emergency management social media consultant with Virtual Operations Support Team (VOST).

“Sandy was a learning experience,” Mr. Reisenberg said of the superstorm that struck in October. “It’s important that we get the word out to the people in the Town of Southold that if something happens, you do have a team of people behind the scenes trying to make things work. But it’s also important that you help yourselves.”

Ways of helping oneself before, during and after a storm, Mr. Reisenberg said, include purchasing items like generators and flashlights for an “emergency kit,” and learning how to text message friends and family to quickly communicate important information.

Ms. Lane, who lives in Cutchogue and previously worked in film and TV production for the BBC, said it’s crucial that people learn how to text message, no matter their age.

“I hear [from people], ‘Well we don’t text,’” Ms. Lane said. “Well, you need to learn it. It’s not that hard and it’s a lifesaver.”

Text messages use less data than cell phone calls, so texts will go through during emergencies when calls often fail, she explained.

Mr. Reisenberg said it’s also important residents comply with officials when they’re asked to evacuate their homes before a storm hits.

“There could be a situation where they can’t get to you, and you’re putting people in harm’s way by not evacuating,” he said.

In the 10 months since Sandy, Mr. Reisenberg said, the town has compiled a comprehensive list of areas vulnerable to flooding. The town is also looking for funding to install shower stalls at Peconic Community Center, which will serve as one of the town’s main shelters, he said.

Though he didn’t know where the funding would come from, he said the plans are “in the pipeline.”

Town officials are also working to prepare media materials in both English and Spanish to assist the town’s many Spanish-speaking residents, Mr. Reisenberg said.

“It’s not happening as fast we would like, but we have discussed it,” he said.

The event was organized and hosted by members of the East Marion Community Association.

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