New Community Coalition Focuses on Safeguarding Children

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“Don’t wait, communicate, make your emergency plan today” is the returning theme of National Preparedness Month which kicks off September 1. This year in Putnam County, the 13th annual observance is getting added attention with the growing efforts of the Community Resilience Coalition (CRC). Agencies from the public, private and non-profit sectors make up the CRC, which focuses on ensuring the safety and well-being of children before, during and after disasters.

“We are fortunate in Putnam County to have first responders and highway departments that take the safety and well-being of all our residents, young and old, very seriously,” said County Executive MaryEllen Odell. “Children are among the most vulnerable of our community. Anything and everything that we can do to ensure their safety and resilience in times of crisis, we must do. That’s why the work of the CRC and the recognition of National Preparedness Month are so important.”

Research has shown that since children depend on multiple residents and local services, they can be viewed as an indicator of how well a community is recovering following a disaster. This is the reason behind the CRC, part of the Resilient Children/Resilient Communities Initiative, a research project at Columbia University’s National Center for Disaster Preparedness. The project is funded through a $2 million grant from GlaxoSmithKline in partnership with Save the Children. Putnam County is one of two sites in the U.S. selected to create a blueprint to keep children safe in emergencies by increasing awareness and strengthening the community. The other site is Washington County in Arkansas.

“This is a unique opportunity for Putnam to strengthen our local network which will serve as a foundation to protect and support our young,” said Michael Nesheiwat, MD, Interim Commissioner of Health. “These dedicated organizations will be building a stronger, sustainable future, but there are also things—practical things—you can do right now to help in the effort in a very personal way.”

For example, most people view emergency preparedness as a huge job, but taking one, first step can make a big difference. Creating an ICE (in case of emergency) card, having emergency supplies on hand, and making a plan to meet or reconnect are some of the easy steps a family can take. Two of the best resources for taking that first step are at and

“Getting accurate information during an event is also key,” explains Anthony Sutton, Commissioner of the Bureau of Emergency Services (BES), “and NY Alert is a good way to start.” This free service from New York State sends both local and state emergency messages. Individuals who sign up can get real-time information about current threats sent to their cell phones. People pick what types of information they want and how they get it, either by email or text. They can change or cancel the alerts at any time. Personal information is completely protected and never shared. Sign up at

“Residents who wish to help with a community-wide response to emergencies, should consider joining the Medical Reserve Corps,” says Dr. Nesheiwat. “Putnam’s MRC still needs all types of volunteers, both non-medical and medical. For example, help is always needed with important logistical

support or administrative tasks.” Interested residents can find out more information by visiting the Putnam County website or calling the health department at 845-808-1390.