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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Workshop in Lyons Helps Prepare Community for Future Disasters

By Claudia Giannetti, Preparedness volunteer

Residents of Lyons and the surrounding areas gathered on April 8 to attend a Be Red Cross Ready (BRCR) Preparedness workshop presented by the Red Cross and made possible through the work of a number of Lyons community partners. 

It was a beautiful Colorado spring day and all was calm, yet just a few months ago this community was partly under water, in the midst of the isolation and destruction wreaked by the 2013 Colorado floods.

So, why host a Preparedness workshop after the fact? Because it is the perfect time to review and share lessons learned with our neighbors.  After all, neighbors taking care of each other is what creates resiliency. 

This is the basic yet powerful message of the American Red Cross.   Stronger connections within our community make us better prepared to respond and recover during the next disaster. This was also the message emphasized by representatives from the Lyons Fire Department and the Boulder Office of Emergency Management during the evening of dialogue around disaster preparedness. Being individually prepared is a key step in helping control the chaos cause by a disaster, but we need to take it further, to know our neighbors and the resources we can share to complement and strengthen our safety.

For those present at the workshop, the memories of how they had to shelter in place for the first few days and then pack out and evacuate are still very fresh.  Most of the people in attendance were out of their homes for the six-week period that the entire Town of Lyons was evacuated, and many others were evacuated for much longer. 

As part of the preparedness discussion, residents shared stories of how they survived the floods – such as evacuating with a VW van that was ready-loaded for camping. Others were less prepared and said they grabbed a handful of items to keep warm and be connected, but in the hectic process of evacuating forgot important items like a wallet with their ID. Some described trying to keep their loved ones calm and safe, all the while attempting corral their scared dog who was running around.  They also described safe havens; The Church served as one of the "islands" throughout town where folks sought shelter and advice on how to proceed.

The workshop was presented in a community dialogue format to allow town members to learn from each other’s collective experiences and knowledge. In addition to looking back on what helped during the flood as well as what they wish they had done to be prepared, attendees were asked to look forward, to the future: What else does this community want to do to keep developing their resiliency?  What steps can they take so their community is even better prepared and stronger to face whatever disaster might come next?

Suggestions included access to more response and recovery training by organizations such as the American Red Cross, HAM Radio operation, fire mitigation, CPR and First Aid.  The Red Cross will coordinate to set up training, or assist with coordinating training through other of its partner agencies.

Blue skies might not seem like a time we want to worry about 'what if'. But it really is the perfect time to do so with calmness to prepare a kit, make a plan and stay informed.

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