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Emergency Responders Converge At Putnam Disaster Exercise

Anthony Sutton, Commissioner of Emergency Services; Michael Nesheiwat, MD, interim Health Commissioner, and Jeff Schlegelmilch, deputy director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University’s Earth Institute.
Anthony Sutton, Commissioner of Emergency Services; Michael Nesheiwat, MD, interim Health Commissioner, and Jeff Schlegelmilch, deputy director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University’s Earth Institute. Photo Credit: Contributed
Robert Cuomo from the Bureau of Emergency Services and Yvonne Richards from the New York State Police were among the players representing a wide range of sectors from law enforcement to child-serving institutions.
Robert Cuomo from the Bureau of Emergency Services and Yvonne Richards from the New York State Police were among the players representing a wide range of sectors from law enforcement to child-serving institutions. Photo Credit: Contributed

PUTNAM COUNTY, N.Y. -- Nearly 30 organizations and agencies took part in a recent disaster preparedness exercise performed by the Putnam County’s Community Resilience Coalition.

According to the Coalition, nearly 60 percent of Putnam households believe they would be reunited with their children within several hours of a potential major disaster in the Hudson Valley. On Wednesday, they hosted the disaster preparedness exercise in effort to perfect their practices in the event of an emergency.

Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell said that “the exercise offers a better understanding of how Putnam organizations and agencies interact during an emergency.”

In total, there were more than 50 attendees from 28 organizations who participated in the Putnam County’s Community Resilience Coalition disaster preparedness exercise at the Centennial Golf Club in Carmel. Representatives included members of local schools, childcare and after school programs, law enforcement, public health and healthcare, emergency management and first responders.

“By providing an opportunity for our child-serving institutions to partner with local emergency responders, we improve communication and response to support and protect the children of our community,” Odell added.

The Coalition said that more than 65 percent of American households do not have an adequate emergency plan, and nearly half have none at all. Additionally, 45 percent of Putnam households believe help will arrive in under an hour in the event of a large-scale, unanticipated disaster. They noted that 41 percent of households in Putnam are not familiar with their child’s daycare or school evacuation or emergency plan.

“An exercise like this better prepares local counties to anticipate and meet the unique needs of children,” Jeff Schlegelmilch, deputy director of the National Center for Disaster stated. “This is one of many activities of the Community Resilience Coalition that serves as a model for other communities looking to do this kind of work.”

During the exercise, the Coalition - which is an official subcommittee of the Disaster Preparedness Task Force of Putnam County - hosted a discussion-based “tabletop” exercise, where they assessed common assumptions and reviewed protocols and resources of the organizations participating.

On Wednesday, the mock scenario that played out involved a major earthquake that struck Putnam County, firing an evacuation at certain childcare and essential facilities.

“The purpose of the exercise was to envision all the possibilities that could happen and then decide how we, as community organizations, would handle it,” Anthony Sutton, the Commissioner of the Bureau of Emergency Services of Putnam County noted.

“By talking through the steps of a specified scenario, we identify where the gaps are and how best to fill them.”

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