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Friday, April 18, 2014

City launches neighborhood emergency program
Volunteers to help disseminate information during disasters
Christina Daly/Herald
The city is launching a program where teams of volunteers would disseminate information during a disaster like Hurricane Sandy.

Nearly eight months after Hurricane Sandy ravaged Long Beach, and with forecasters predicting an active or extremely active hurricane season this year, the city is implementing a program that will help provide vital information to the community in the wake of a major disaster.

The city, in conjunction with the Long Beach Police Department, is launching a Long Beach Neighborhood Emergency Team (NET) Program that will consist of local volunteers to help the city disseminate crucial information if a disaster strikes and knocks out power and cell phone service.

The program will educate Long Beach residents who choose to volunteer about emergency preparedness and allow them to assist within their own neighborhoods following a disaster, City Manager Jack Schnirman said. NET volunteers, according to the city, will be prepared to respond to, and cope with, the aftermath of a disaster, and will ensure that households receive important emergency information.

“In the wake of Superstorm Sandy, Internet access and telephone service was lost throughout the city, leaving emergency services unable to contact households with vital information regarding food, water and shelter,” Schnirman said. “And first responders, while they acted heroically and did their best to communicate through various means, we’re always looking to improve our response plan and get the message out in the case of future emergencies.”

In April, Schnirman told National Public Radio that all cell towers in Long Beach went down during Sandy, and described the experience at a Federal Communications Commission hearing earlier this year.

“There was one woman in particular who passed away, of natural causes, an elderly woman,” Schnirman told NPR. “And her daughter had to walk literally a mile and a half from her home to police headquarters just to say, ‘Listen, my mom has passed, and I thought I should tell somebody.’”

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