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Quake, hurricane readiness highlight Waimea town meeting

Another earthquake or hurricane requires readiness

Waimea community to focus on emergency preparedness planning at Thursday, Nov. 5, 2009 town meeting

Community Resilience: the ability to recover from or adjust to misfortune or change; the capacity to withstand shock without permanent deformation.

The “misfortune” or “stress” for a rural community such as Waimea could be any of a wide array of natural or man-made disasters: pandemic illness such as swine flu, earthquake, hurricane or flood, serious shortages of food, fuel or water; wildfire or chemical spill, or a cumulative disaster caused by global warming or volcanic eruption.

The question is: How does a community – in this case, Waimea – prepare for and reduce the risk of emergencies or disasters, which experts say are not a matter of “if” but “when”? What kind of preparation should occur individually and collectively, knowing that public emergency services would, at best, be strained.

“Think about it: what if we were “off-grid” for a month?” said Margaret Wille, a Waimea Community Association (WCA) Board member who is coordinating the November Town Meeting on emergency preparedness.

These questions will be the focus of the 5 p.m., Thurs., Nov. 5 WCA Town Meeting at Waimea School Cafeteria. (Note both time and location change for this monthly meeting to accommodate presentations and round table discussions.)

“This isn’t intended to scare anyone, but rather, develop a clear understanding of risks, needs, vulnerable points and begin planning appropriate responses,” said WCA President Bill Sanborn.

“We will brainstorm ways we can reduce our risks and how we can better prepare for any disaster,” said Wille. “By mitigating our risks,” she explained, “we will become a more self-sufficient and sustainable community.”

Representatives from various community responder organizations will participate including Quince Mento with Hawai’i County Civil Defense, a representatives from “Firewise Community,” and Community Emergency Response Training (CERT) volunteers, as well as business and private organizations.

The meeting will begin with “Show and Share” tables from 5-5:30 p.m. in the Waimea school cafeteria featuring governmental agencies, schools, churches and local businesses. Any group, business, community organization, church or individual interested in sharing information is invited to participate with a presentation table.

The meeting will begin at 5:30 p.m. with general announcements, followed by an introduction of all participants. Then, community members will participate in drafting a Community Plan of Risks, Needs and To Do Lists, and conclude with a discussion of “next steps” including possible grants and assignments. The meeting will conclude by 7:15 p.m.

“It’s a first-step open discussion to help us begin thinking through our individual and collective roles and responsibilities,” said Sanborn.

This town meeting comes on the heels of a recent month-long Community Emergency Response Training (CERT) program at Tutu’s House. CERT trainings have been held all over the Big Island.

As with all WCA Town Meetings, the entire community is invited. There is no charge to attend or participate though a $12 WCA membership urged to support the association’s informational activities and the annual Waimea Christmas Twilight Parade – at 6 p.m., Sat., Dec. 5, 2009.

Also, to continue WCA’s 2009 commitment to help Waimea’s hard-pressed food pantries, all attendees are urged to bring a donation – preferably cash or a check – or non-perishable food items. Cash or checks will be given to the Waimea pantries to purchase gift certificates from Waimea grocery stores so that recipients are able to buy fresh items such as milk, vegetables or fruit as well as other essentials. Checks may be payable direct to a food pantry so may be tax deductible to the extent permitted by law.

For more information, to host an informational table or otherwise assist, call Margaret Wille at margaretwille@mac.com or call 887-1419, or WCA President Bill Sanborn (895-1122).

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