West Point offers conduit for community to learn more about emergency preparedness, safety

By Eric S. Bartelt PV Managing Editor - October 14, 2021
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The thunderous beats of music thumped though the Post Exchange parking lot bringing a vibrant energy to the more than a couple of hundred West Point community members who visited the Emergency Preparedness Fair and National Night Out combined event Saturday at West Point.

As the music played via the cadets from WKDT and the aroma of steak and onions from a food truck filled the air, the business at hand was a combined event to bring about community resiliency and awareness in preparation of a disastrous event or a critical emergency situation. 

Historically, the Emergency Preparedness Fair and National Night Out have been conducted as two separate and distinct events. 

The Emergency Preparedness Fair is a culminating event in a series of thematic activities associated with the Army Ready Program and National Preparedness Month, which is an observance each September to raise awareness about the importance of preparing for disasters and emergencies that could happen at any time.

National Night Out is an annual community-building campaign that promotes police-community partnerships and neighborhood camaraderie to make a neighborhood safer and a more favorable place to live — bringing about a true sense of community.

“This year’s event combined the efforts of both campaigns to educate and inform the West Point community about the importance of individual and family preparedness and community partnership,” George Gilbert, emergency management program manager, U.S. Army Garrison West Point, said.

Community members walked from tent to tent gaining knowledge as a variety of agencies set up static displays featuring educational items and activities to engage the participants. 

Adults and children, alike, went to the American Red Cross and American Heart Association tent to watch cardiopulmonary resuscitation demonstrations and airway management procedures and then, in turn, got to perform them as well.

The Orange County Sheriff’s Office provided a police canine demonstration, fingerprinting and identification registration as part of the National Child Identification Program.

Community members got to play with and pet many of the dogs on hand through the Hudson Valley’s Paws for a Cause.

The Civil Air Patrol displayed a drone and provided information about their search and rescue capabilities.

There were also other agencies with displays to include the Criminal Investigation Division, West Point Department of Emergency Services, the New York Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security among additional agencies. 

The theme, Gilbert said, for the 2021 event was “Prepare to Protect. Preparing for disasters is protecting everyone you love.”

With the community participants given opportunities to gather home safety information and material for family preparedness kits and such, it allowed them to take away important material that can, in turn, help them down the road if an emergency arises.  

“(The importance of the event) is individual and family resiliency to stress the importance of making a plan, building a kit, preparing for disaster, and teaching the youth about preparedness,” Gilbert said. “It is also about informing the West Point community about various federal, state, local and volunteer agency partners and their capabilities.”

Gilbert said it took about nine to 10 months to bring everything together to what the community viewed on Saturday. As the emergency management program manager, Gilbert is responsible for the Army Ready Program, which is called “Ready West Point” at the U.S. Military Academy. 

“I have an overall responsibility to ensure an event like this is successful from soliciting participation from our community partners to advertising and execution,” Gilbert said. “An event like this one requires significant planning and coordination, especially considering the Force Health Protection measures in place.

“Last year, we had to cancel this event because of the COVID environment and local restrictions in place,” Gilbert added. “Tom Slater (DPTMS plans and operations) and Kori Stach (Emergency Operations Center specialist) were on the frontlines in terms of logistics coordination and ensuring the event went smoothly. The command emphasis from our leadership at DPTMS, specifically the operations section, was invaluable. This was an all-hands effort by our team.”

Overall, as the rain stayed away on an overcast day, the event went off without a hitch and Gilbert was thankful to the many entities that helped pull it off.

“I thank AAFES for helping us advertise and provide the venue,” Gilbert said. “I thank WKDT for volunteering to provide music and entertainment. Also, to DPTMS for planning and coordination — specifically Tom Slater and Kori Stach for their efforts.”

While many people were in attendance, the hope is that the message being presented about resiliency and awareness is taken to heart and that lives may be saved in the future due to the information and knowledge given and learned during the four-hour afternoon event.   

“As long as we can reach one person, (the event) is worth it,” Robert Brown, chief of the Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security, said.