August 23, 2006
Seminar to Focus on Emergency Preparedness
"Find out what you have to protect."
That, according to Sunshine Lemme, the Director of Continuity and Compliance at Gurney's Inn in Montauk, is the first step in preparing for a disaster, be it natural or manmade. But that knowledge and the subsequent preparation is lacking in both the public and private sectors, leaving homes and businesses vulnerable, Lemme said.
To that end, a three-day emergency preparedness seminar entitled "Are You Prepared for Disaster?" will be held at Gurney's from September 10 through 12. Participants will develop and discuss the implementation of an emergency plan and listen to a variety of guest lectures on subjects related to emergency preparedness. "The goal that we have is to just try to educate and prepare more people on Long Island to deal with all types of disasters," said Paul Monte, the General Manager and CEO of Gurney's.
"The more people that are prepared the better off the entire community will be," he added.
Though disaster mitigation plans are in place at local, state and federal levels, the response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005 demonstrated that the private sector needs to have contingency plans in place to make up for governmental shortfalls, Monte noted. Planning must start at "the grassroots level with the people and businesses in the community," he said. "The planning has to take place at those levels in order for an efficient reaction to any type of disaster to occur."
The seminar's intensive focus on planning is indicative of the need to keep preparedness policies as "up-to-date as possible," Monte said.
"A plan that is on the shelf doesn't work. Plans don't work by themselves; it takes people to work them," Lemme added.
Emergency preparedness needs to cover both the onset and aftermath of disaster, both Lemme and Monte emphasized. Continuity planning is important for "those things you need to do to get back up and running as quickly as possible after a disaster," Monte said.
Post-disaster contingency plans are necessary "not only to try to prevent further damage but to be able to continue your operation, whether it be in the public sector or the private sector," said Yvette Aguiar, a former sergeant in the New York City Police Department's counterterrorism unit. Aguiar will give a lecture about the terrorist perspective of disaster at the conference.
Monte said the conference is "hopefully, the first of many;" future conferences may be dedicated to more specific issues within the emergency management realm.
Lemme hopes the inaugural seminar will provide solutions to disaster-related problems that are oftentimes put on the back burner. When faced with the prospect of preparing for sometimes unimaginable disasters, people "are like a deer in the headlights" because "they don't know what to do," he said.
Training could solve that problem. "There's an education process that needs to happen," he said. "That's why I'm putting this on."
Contact Gurney's Inn at 668-1717 for more information about the conference.