By Chief Rindfleisch

It’s week three of the National Preparedness Month and the week started out with an anniversary of one of the most tragic events in United States history. Fifteen years ago, the events of 9/11 brought back to the forefront our need to always be prepared for the worse.

In the months and years following, communities across the country pulled out their disaster plans and went over them with fine tooth combs. The size of the community did not matter since this disaster showed that it could happen anywhere.

The small community of Shanksville in Stoney Creek Township, Somerset County, Pa., probably never thought it could happen there. On the morning of 09/11/2001 when Flight 93 crashed, the Shanksville Volunteer Fire Department was the first responders on scene.

Shanksville, Pa. has a population of 250 and the fire department provides fire, emergency medical service (EMS) and rescue including SCUBA. The department covers 62 square miles with a total population of 2500, including three municipalities and covers 15 miles of the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

They have 28 active members. You may wonder why I am including this information in my preparedness article. The Clinton Fire Protection District covers an area of 72 square miles, with a population of just over 4000.

We provide fire, emergency medical service (EMS) and rescue to three municipalities which includes a 6-mile portion of I-43. We currently have 45 active members in Fire and EMS. Do you see the similarities? We are within major flight patterns of multiple major and local airports.

We have several heavily used freeways and highways within or bordering our response area. Are we prepared? Can we be prepared enough? Do we have enough manpower and time to make these preparations?

I can tell you that “your” first responders (Fire, EMS and Police) have been and continue to work on plans for all kinds of possible events including disasters to our response area. With limited time and money, we do the best we can and focus on local issues, but do not look past the potential for a larger scale incident.

Although no one can be totally prepared for anything and everything that could happen, by making plans you will be one step ahead in the event of a disaster. So, back to the events of 9/11 and the reason that you hear over and over again to “Never Forget.”

By not forgetting this event and all the ones before and after it reminds us that we are not too small to become involved. Making plans before a disaster give you a better chance to get through the disaster. Remember to “NEVER FORGET.”

Week three brings us to “community preparedness” and how can you be part of it. You may be thinking, I can’t be on the fire department or emergency medical service and for sure not a police officer. There are still many ways to help make sure your neighborhood, church, schools, businesses and community are prepared. Start by asking any one of these groups if they have a plan and if you could be a part of reviewing or implementing the needs of these plans.

Gather your neighborhood together for a meeting and see who is prepared and who could use help. During a church group meeting ask the question about a disaster plan, if there is one and if you could help with it. The schools are very prepared and regularly update and review their plans with local emergency responders. If you are a business owner, ask the members of the Chamber of Commerce if they have an emergency plan for the businesses and if not, help put one together.

Like I stated earlier, your community does have plans in the event of a disaster and it is overseen by local emergency management. If this has sparked your interest in helping, there are also many county, state and national response organizations that can use your help.

Contact them and see what their needs are and if you can become part of their response team. I would like to finish by asking that if you can help locally, please do so. Your local services are experiencing a higher number of calls for service with the same (or lower) number of responders, since these departments began.

Until next week, stay safe and “NEVER FORGET”!