June 1st marks the start of hurricane season. The agencies that provide long-range weather forecasts predict a very difficult season. So, it’s possible that another Hurricane Sandy or Hurricane Katrina will hit the Gulf Coast or the Atlantic Coast before November.
What can Sierra Club groups do in this situation? On Cape Cod and the Massachusetts islands, Sierra Club people have learned a few things from recent experience. Keep in mind that hurricanes aren’t the only environmental problems that Americans face during the warm weather season. Heat waves, droughts, wildfires, massive power failures, and crop failures are also on the list. The following suggestions may be helpful.
EMERGENCY SERVICES: If you’re a Sierra Club leader, it’s helpful to know the first aid basics. Red Cross certification means that you’ve completed training that most people understand and respect. Contact local emergency services agencies including the Red Cross. Ask, “How can I be helpful? What kind of training do I need?” First aid training is useful. Also, volunteer to help with shelter management, during emergencies.
The important thing is to “be prepared.” Get your training now, before the emergency develops. For security and safety reasons, and other reasons, agencies like the Red Cross want to know something about their volunteers. If you volunteer to help with shelter operations, you’ll probably be asked to participate in a criminal records check. You’ll probably be asked to carry a Red Cross photo identification, during your hours of service.
ANIMAL RESCUE: In your town, who cares for wildlife and domestic animals during emergencies? Check with local agencies. Again, if you want to get involved, there will probably be a need for a background check and some basic training.
PUBLIC EDUCATION: What’s happening in your local environment? How does climate change impact on your community? On Cape Cod and on the islands, families are worried about the expansion of Lyme disease season and the arrival of new problems, including the arrival of West Nile virus. We’ve had some community exhibits that include information about what happens as “climate change comes home.” The sign for our exhibit says, “Your Health and Safety in a Changing Environment.” (The message appears in several languages.)
Taking the information to environmental groups may be helpful. However: At this point, it’s very important to start reaching out to people who, usually, don’t have much involvement with groups like the Sierra Club. Try to connect with senior citizens, religious groups, human services providers, etc.
Our local Sierra Club group is involved in volunteer trainings on May 29th and May 30th. We work with county health workers and the Red Cross to prepare for the warm weather season. Also, we’ll have some events in early June that alert people to the start of hurricane season.
(sumitted by Bob Murphy, chairman, Sierra Club Cape Cod and Islands Group.)