Emergency Preparedness Commission offers emergency safety tips

By: Mark Vest | Farmington Press | Published December 7, 2022


FARMINGTON/FARMINGTON HILLS — In 2001, then-Farmington Hills Mayor Nancy Bates, along with the City Council, formed a commission following the terrorist attacks that occurred in New York and Washington, D.C., on Sept. 11 that year.

The attacks resulted in the loss of 2,977 lives and the collapse of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center.

More than 20 years later, what is now known as the Farmington Hills/Farmington Emergency Preparedness Commission is still active.

The objective of the volunteer-based commission is to educate people on how to take care of themselves, their families and the community during times of widespread emergencies.

According to Michael Sweeney, who is a commissioner with the EPC, the original group was started because Bates “decided that we, as a people, were not really prepared to take care of ourselves.”

An example of why forming a commission was a good idea came again in 2003, when approximately 50 million people across multiple states, including Michigan, were affected by a power outage that lasted, at least for some, days.

“In 2001, after the Towers fell, people really, really hungered for this information,” Sweeney said. “(In) 2003, when we had the regional power outage, people were knocking on our doors to get information.”

Roger Avie is the current chairman of the EPC. He shared other ways that the commission can benefit residents.

“The Emergency Preparedness Commission was designed to bring to the public and interested parties different ways to protect their family and themselves from emergencies,” Avie said. “For example, a storm that would pass through the area — what you should have on hand. We put out lists of emergency supplies you should always have in your house or your car, and of course (there’s) training to utilize those tools in case of an emergency.”

Avie cited a recent snowstorm in western New York as an example of how a large portion of people are not properly prepared for emergencies.

He is of the opinion that in an urban community such as Farmington Hills, 80% of residents are not prepared for an emergency.

“The reality pops up whenever we have a storm and trees go down – they don’t have generators; they don’t have a way to get water,” Avie said. “You saw what happened in Buffalo. … They’ve got 6 feet of snow, and those people are trapped. If you were to have a snowstorm like that, or a windstorm that knocks down trees, (and) you can’t get in and out of your subdivision, you gotta be prepared to maybe not go to the grocery store for milk or bread – water (will) probably stay on, but if the power goes out, the pumps go out.”

Since the power outage of 2003, Sweeney has noticed that there hasn’t been the same level of clamoring for emergency preparedness information.

“As the years faded, say about 2010, people became less interested,” he said. “And then, right now, interest levels are kinda low.”

Sometimes, emergencies can happen when people are traveling in their vehicles, and the EPC can help people prepare for such situations.

“The whole idea of preparedness is just that, be prepared for the unexpected,” Avie said. “If you’ve ever been in your car and get involved with sliding, slipping and getting off the road, you don’t necessarily have a way of getting back on if you don’t have traction. … Up North, most people will travel with a blanket in their car; they’ll travel with flares; they’ll travel with lighting devices to make sure people don’t hit the back of their car. Make sure in the winter, and even year ’round, that you don’t run your car down to a quarter tank of gas.”

From Avie’s perspective, familiar standbys can’t necessarily be counted on during emergencies.

“Urban people and suburban people are even less mindful of being prepared because they’re so handy to grocery stores and gasoline stations, so they don’t think about it,” he said. “But if the power goes out, gas stations can’t run. They don’t have back-up generators.”

In preparation for an emergency, Sweeney said, the first thing he encourages people to think about is what is going on within their own homes, including what medicines to have on hand in case a pharmacy is closed.

However, he is also a proponent of having a “community team,” such as a Neighborhood Watch program.

“You don’t need to have chainsaws, axes and come-along pulleys if your next-door neighbor does,” Sweeney said. “Maybe your next-door neighbor needs candles, flashlights and matches. So if you get together as a community, you can have the resources that all of you need. You don’t need for every single house to be a little storehouse.”

Sweeney offered suggestions of supplies people should have available in the winter.

“Coming into winter, you should have an understanding of what you need to get through the winter, and not just shovels and salt for your driveway, but shoes, socks, coats, hats and high-calorie foods — and have the same level of supplies in your car,” he said. “If you’re out driving around at night and slide into a ditch, you may be there that night, but if you have a candle for light and (to) keep you warm, and food and water, you can get through easily, if not comfortably, into the morning.”

Avie shared the benefits for people when they are properly prepared for emergency situations.

“They’re gonna have a much easier time,” he said. “If you have the appropriate things in your house, you’ll be comfortable. You’ll be safe.”

Some of the emergency-preparedness items that Avie said he has include a battery-operated radio, a small ax, flashlights, batteries and a small section of rope in case he needs to tie something off.

“If you have to, for example, like in Florida, leave your house right now, what do you take with you? What should you take with you to be able to get to the next safe place? … If you have a passport, maybe you should take it for ID,” Avie said. “Maybe you should have a small supply of cash on hand. … The credit cards, if the power is down, you can’t use.”

Part of the EPC’s role is to prepare people for a “Plan B.”

“People sometimes, most all the time, are never prepared for the unexpected,” Avie said. “If tomorrow somebody said, ‘You gotta leave; you can’t stay,’ where would you go? What would you do? That’s the kinda stuff you need to know. … What are you gonna do when your furnace stops? … By and large, if you were to ask the average citizen off the street, certainly the young people, they don’t have a Plan B.”

The EPC sometimes hosts educational outreach sessions.

The EPC has also hosted Stop the Bleed tourniquet training, as well as CPR and Automated External Defibrillator training, and is scheduled to do so again 5:30-10 p.m. Dec. 15 in the upstairs training room at Fire Station #4, located at 28711 Drake Road in Farmington Hills.

To register, or for more information, send an email to swest@fhgov.com.

According to an email sent by Sweeney, two times this year, the EPC has distributed Federal Emergency Management Agency literature at Total Wellness Health Fairs, which were hosted by the Farmington Hills Special Services Department at the Costick Activities Center and by the EPC at The Hawk – Farmington Hills Community Center.

Sweeney also stated that EPC commissioners participated in the city of Farmington Hills community-wide open house, the Farmington-wide intra-faith community meeting and the Farmington Founders Festival.

“These were excellent opportunities for the public to collect literature on a wide range of home preparedness topics, personal health support, safety topics for senior citizens, the special needs community and your pets,” Sweeney stated via email.

According to Sweeney, the EPC also has public meetings conducted at Farmington Hills City Hall.

“All of our events are free events,” Avie said. “The information is free.”

According to Avie, the EPC may also start having naloxone training sessions next year.

Naloxone is a drug that can be used to offset the effect of a drug overdose, according to Avie.

To learn about scheduled events, search for the Farmington Hills/Farmington Emergency Preparedness Commission on Facebook.

Residents can also learn more by visiting farmgov.com and fhgov.com.

Avie shared a message for residents.

“Being prepared is always a good thing for any emergency,” he said. “Always prepare yourself for that which you never would plan on having happen. … Think about things you’re most dependent on, and then have a Plan B to make sure you can do it.”