Over 700 area residents get trained by National Guard for future disasters

The auditorium of the High School for Health Professions and Human Services was packed with people, many from Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village,  to be trained in emergency preparedness from the New York National Guard. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

The auditorium of the High School for Health Professions and Human Services was packed with people, many from Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village, to be trained in emergency preparedness from the New York National Guard. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Over 700 community residents, many from Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village, received training in emergency preparedness from the New York National Guard last Thursday evening, courtesy of a program initiated by Governor Cuomo and designed by the Department of Homeland Security.

The training was led by Captain Glenford Rose, who advised area residents to be aware of different kinds of emergencies, including fires and gas leaks, and not just Sandy-like disasters. Rose reminded residents, who had packed the auditorium at the High School for Health Professions and Human Services, to stock up on supplies and to have a kit ready with everything needed in an emergency. Participants at the training received a knapsack full of necessities, but Rose emphasized that this kit was just a starting point and noted that individuals should make sure to customize their kit for their needs, such as accounting for pets, special medications and adding in various important documents.

Councilwoman Rosie Mendez was at the event and had a tip of her own: fill the bathtub with water.

“But make sure the lock works,” she added. “I put water in mine and two hours later it was gone!”

A number of other local elected officials were involved in the event, including Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney. City Councilman Dan Garodnick and State Senator Brad Hoylman also made appearances at the event, with both offering opening remarks for the training.

Garodnick recounted his experience with a group National Guard troops during the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, in which he led about 50 servicemen and women all the way through Stuyvesant Town, on a chilly November night while the power was still out, in an attempt to reach Waterside Plaza before they were met with a locked gate at the northeast corner of Peter Cooper Village.

“That was the end of my military career,” Garodnick joked.

The Manhattan CERT team also collaborated on the event with the governor’s office, in addition to New York State Community Affairs, the PCVST Management office and the ST-PCV Tenants Association.

Ready New York liaison Virginia Rosario had put together 950 packets of materials to hand out at the event and ST-PCV Tenants Association president and Ready New York member John Marsh put together a flier that was posted in all Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village buildings, courtesy of management.

Alexandria Wiedenbaum and Sergeant Major Armando Lopez, helping people sign in and register for the training.  (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Alexandria Wiedenbaum and Sergeant Major Armando Lopez, helping people sign in and register for the training. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

There were 739 people at the training meeting, which wound up being the highest number of people that have been trained at a single event. Following the training last Thursday, there was an additional event in Lower Manhattan last weekend where 455 people were trained. Since the program was launched in February, the New York State National Guard has held 205 of these events and trained 27,245 people.

Erik Bottcher, a representative from Governor Cuomo’s office, said that he was thrilled with the turnout and said it probably won’t be the last opportunity for residents to find out about emergency preparedness.

“This is an ongoing project,” he said. “As a storm-affected area, there will definitely be more events here in the future.”

Garodnick noted after the event that the chaos following Hurricane Sandy increased awareness for emergency preparedness and since then the number of these kinds of events has increased.

“It is really important for people to be prepared for the unexpected and the expected in New York,” he said. “We’re no strangers to natural disasters or other emergencies but the time to focus on this issue is in a moment of calm. I think because of the number of people it affected and the duration of time that they were affected, (Hurricane Sandy) opened a lot of eyes toward emergency preparedness.”

Alexandria Wiedenbaum, who has been in the Army National Guard for over two years, usually leads trainings in Staten Island with Sergeant Major Armando Lopez. There are eight teams of throughout the state and each team is responsible for a different region, but Wiedenbaum said that she and Lopez, as well as others from teams throughout the state, had congregated at the Thursday training, because it was such a big event.

“This is our tax dollars invested,” Lopez said of the training sessions. “Sandy told us that there’s a problem. Sandy showed how many people weren’t prepared so we’re trying to change that.”

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