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Turnout low for disaster training

November 16, 2003|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

Organizers of the second Citizens' Emergency Preparedness Day expressed concern Saturday that low turnout could mean people are forgetting about the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the need to prepare for such emergencies.

An estimated 50 people attended Saturday's event, which had workshops in four rooms.

About 300 people attended the first Citizens' Emergency Preparedness Day at Robinwood Medical Center in August 2002.

The event was a spinoff of President Bush's call for communities to be prepared for emergencies.

Some of those attending last year said the event would draw more people if it were not held during the summer, Joe Kroboth, Washington County emergency services director, said.

The decision was made to hold the event Saturday to try to draw a larger crowd, but attendance dropped for unknown reasons, Kroboth said.

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Kroboth and Verna Brown, Washington County Emergency Management Agency coordinator, said they hope the low turnout does not mean local residents are going to be reactive about emergencies. Workshops at both events provided information on how people can be proactive.

"Don't get complacent. It can happen here," Brown said.

Brown emphasized the 9/11 terrorist attacks as part of a workshop she did on preparing for disasters and emergencies. She showed a montage of video clips of the attacks.

"Bear with me. I feel it is important for all of us to remember," Brown said.

Following Hurricane Isabel and last winter's blizzard, emergency workers were hopeful that people would attend to find ways to plan ahead for possible disasters, Brown said later.

She provided the four people who attended Saturday's workshop with information, and the size of the audience grew closer to 10 as others spoke on related topics.

"There is safety in knowledge," she told them. "Emergency preparedness is everyone's responsibility."

"So far I am learning. I felt I needed to get prepared," Jim Doyle, of Hagerstown, said during a break. "I am surprised and disappointed by the amount of people here."

About 10 members of a Boy Scouts troop from Chewsville attended the August 2002 event.

Troop members Joe Baer, 16, and Jared Savage, 12, attended Brown's workshop Saturday. They said they were learning important information.

"I think it is great. We need more of (the workshops)," Bob Darby of Chewsville said. "We need to get people more involved in the community and emergency services."

Brown and Cindy Blackstock Kline, director of emergency services for the Red Cross in Washington County, emphasized the importance of everyone having a disaster kit containing items they would need in an emergency. Many already have some of the items they would need, such as batteries and canned food, she said.

"Anyone who says they don't have a disaster kit is lying. Anyone who says they have an organized kit is probably lying," she said.

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