The Roswell SAFE Coalition is sponsoring a Disaster Preparedness Forum at the Roswell Public Library, 301 N. Pennsylvania Ave., starting at 6 p.m. Tuesday.
The meeting will give people the chance to meet keynote speaker Karen Sanders, the Emergency Preparedness Manager of Chaves County. She took over the reigns from recently retired Emergency Preparedness Manager Teresa Barncastle.
A Roswell native and graduate of Roswell High, Sanders feels she is giving back to her community. Her stated goal is to “create a safer and less vulnerable community, better able to cope with the hazards and disasters that may occur. Emergency management is reducing the impact of disasters on the community and on the people.”
Much of her life has been spent preparing for emergencies. She worked for the Roswell Fire Department for 10 years at busy Station 1 where she did everything from answer the phones to coordinate the annual rabies clinic. In addition, Sanders took numerous courses in FEMA’s emergency professional development program and courses in incident command systems.
Emergency Preparedness in Chaves County is funded in part by FEMA, or more precisely, The Department of Homeland Security Emergency Management Program. Sander’s offices have changed from RFD Station 1 to Station 2 on Wilshire. Station 2 also contains the new EMP Operations Center.
Sanders’ job entails everything from keeping track of equipment — Roswell now has two new sirens — and ensuring their good repair, to coordination in the case of disaster. Sanders is the liaison between all the agencies and the Fourth Estate. She refers to the latter, the media, as another valuable asset and one of the best means of communication with the general public.
Sanders works in cooperation with City, County, State and Federal emergency agencies and a multiplicity of agencies within each unit. For example, City: Roswell’s emergency team would include everything from RFD, RPD, CCSO, NMSP, various ambulance services and private industry, both profit and nonproft. Thus, she would also coordinate between groups like the Salvation Army, area churches and area shelters, and the Red Cross, along with for-profit organizations such as local hospitals and transportation services to take people to shelters.
This presumes the emergency was localized and did not include anything like hazardous materials or explosives. Then state and federal hazmat teams and the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms could be mobilized, along with State Police bomb squads. Her purpose is to make sure all the pieces and parts of an emergency team fit and work together.
To this end, Sanders participates in the quarterly Local Emergency Training Commission, where the local emergency services, law enforcement (Chaves County Sheriffs Office, Roswell Police Department, State Police) and other first responders including the New Mexico Game and Fish could be called to assist.
She attends meetings at State and Federal level. “Locally, we are required to have three disaster preparedness exercises a year. We hold more than that,” said Sanders. The training exercises allow the divergent groups to coordinate and focus their energy.
Sanders has a vested interest in helping the community and private citizens in preparedness — in other words, knowing what to do. The public needs to be ready as well. In an emergency, the family needs a specific safety program arranged in advance, a shelter a place to go if the area needs to be evacuated — a means of contact and a place where they would meet.
She says each family should put together a package with 72-hours of sustenance including nonperishable food, water and emergency supplies.
Most emergencies are localized, power outages caused by high winds or a bad driver. Some such as a car striking a gas main may require evacuation. Loss of power may rank as an inconvenience, but a preparedness kit can make it easier for the family if they have emergency lighting. A number of battery-operated LED lights require a single tap to start, can last for hours and mean the difference between tripping around a home with a flashlight or having a source of illumination in every room.
She will also discuss the two phases of emergency preparedness, reaction and recovery. For more information call: Roswell SAFE Coalition, 622-4012.