Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIII, No. 26
 
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
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Weather Forecast


Community Preparedness Survey Proposes “All Hazards Approach,” Communication Strategies

Ellen Gilbert

“The Princeton Regional Health Commission (PRHC) has had a very strong concern about emergency preparedness for many years,” said Health Officer David Henry in a recent conversation about the department’s current “Emergency Preparedness Survey.”

The survey is intended “to raise the level of awareness” of Borough and Township residents about emergency preparedness, according to Mr. Henry. The closing date for responses is July 8.

Lest anyone think that the impetus for the survey is recent terrorist attacks, Mr. Henry pointed out that interest in it predates 9/11, with discussions initiated by then-PRHC head Susan Kapoor, and Princeton Township Committee member Vicki Bergman.

The survey, which is supposed to take about five minutes to complete, includes basic demographic questions (age group, number of people in household), as well as some thought-provokers, such as “Does your household have an emergency evacuation plan in case there is a fire, flood, or another event that requires you to leave your home?” and “Do you keep all your insurance, medical, and legal documents current and stored in a place that protects them from damage (fire/water)?”

Respondents to the survey can answer online, or by downloading the form and returning it to the Health Department by mail. As of last week Mr. Henry said he was pleased by the 170 returns the department had received.

All the data compiled by July 8 will be analyzed and reported “by the third or fourth week of July” to both municipal governments, who will determine, Mr. Henry said, “where we go from here.” A Community Preparedness Day is a possibility, he noted. “One of the ultimate goals is to encourage the mindsets of people; things like making sure that you have an emergency preparedness plan at home, sufficient supplies of prescription medications, and that there’s always ‘plan B’ for your kids if you can’t get home and, say, there’s flooding from heavy rain.”

In addition to the survey, PRHC also hosted a recent focus group consisting of representatives from the University, the hospital, the Arts Council, local businesses, community centers, churches, and Community Without Walls. “It wasn’t everyone we wanted,” Mr. Henry said, “but those who were there represented a fairly broad spectrum of the community.” Additional phone surveys and interviews will be conducted with local physicians, and public and private school administrators. “Learning from disasters in other parts of the country” is also part of the process.

“We’re primarily looking at an ‘all-hazards’ approach,” Mr. Henry said. “We’re looking at what we have, and where there are potential gaps.” He emphasized the need for effective communication strategies across languages, and for recognizing that “government alone can’t do it; ordinary community heroes are important.”

The survey is available at www.princetontwp.org/healthmain.html. For further information, call (609) 497-7608.

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