Monday, April 30, 2012

It didn't happen this time, but...

A week ago today, Western New Yorkers were bombarded with predictions of "snowmageddon". Heavy, wet snow was supposed to blanket the area, bringing down trees and power lines in a scene reminiscent of our October Surprise in 2006. The predictions were so dire, the Weather Channel even sent Jim Cantore to Orchard Park to cover the devastation.

L-R: Ken Turner, Julie Rapp, Susan Peek and Diane Sargent
discuss emergency response plans for
predicted spring snow storm.
Here at the Red Cross, we prepared for the worst. Potential shelter locations were put on standby in each of the eight counties of the Greater Buffalo Region, and staff and volunteers were lined up to operate them. Emergency services directors here at our regional headquarters took part in multiple conference calls with their counterparts in the Southwestern New York and Tri-County Chapters to coordinate any possible response and ensure that the Red Cross was ready help wherever needed. We were also in constant contact with emergency managers at the state and local level to coordinate potential action.

As we all now know, "snowmaggedon" never materialized. Some parts of WNY did receive some measurable snowfall, and there were scattered power outages, but there was never any true emergency and no actual disaster operations were necessary. The most exciting part of Jim Cantore's time in Orchard Park turned out to be a visit from Santa Claus!

That doesn't mean we should all start treating the weatherman like the boy who cried wolf, however. Anyone who was here in October of 2006 knows how important being prepared ahead of time can be, and disasters can happen any time, whether the meteorologists predict it or not. If you want to learn to what steps to take to make sure you're Red Cross Ready when disaster predictions actually do come true, set up a free preparedness education program at your school, business or organization.

Here at the Red Cross, the false predictions gave us a chance to test our emergency response capabilities throughout the region in real time. By coincidence, we had a a recap of our March disaster drill scheduled for last Wednesday, and we took that opportunity to discuss what went well during our preparations for the spring storm, and what we could've done better. So we'll keep watching the weatherman, and we'll be ready to respond when the boy actually does see the wolf!