RSVP officials speak on preparedness

Businesses are not more important than lives. That was one of the topics when April Willey and volunteer Erik Anderson from the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program spoke last Thursday at the monthly Bethany-Fenwick Area Chamber of Commerce membership meeting, informing the Chamber’s members about disaster preparation and some of RSVP’s programs.

RSVP, a federally-funded and state-administered program, uses retired volunteers from the area to develop programs not only useful for retired people but the entire populous of the area, Willey and Anderson said Friday. Currently, Willey — the full-time volunteer coordinator for the program — oversees the operation of 1,200 Delaware Emergency Management-certified volunteers.

“If you want to volunteer, I can find a program for you,” said Willey, who, with the volunteers, creates programs to benefit area residents.

One such program is the Medicare Part D counseling program, which helps elderly residents understand what type of assistance they are qualified for. Last year, in the first year of the program, Willey said that the overwhelming majority of the residents who participated in the counseling program qualified for governmental assistance that they didn’t know existed. And all it took was a few meetings with one of RSVP’s volunteer counselors.

“It became obvious that they had struggled for years,” Willey said of the residents who participated. “They never complained, but they struggled.”

Another of RSVP’s programs — one with which people in the area might be more familiar — is the Delaware Animal Disaster Services program that RSVP operates in cooperation with the Delaware SPCA. In June, at Ocean View’s John West Park adjacent to town hall, RSVP held its initial DADS micro-chipping clinic. For $5, officials injected a rice-sized microchip into dogs and cats, and registered them into a national database. In case of a disaster where pets and their owners are separated, pets can be identified by the microchip and reunited with their owners.

Officials micro-chipped more than 160 animals in Ocean View and have micro-chipped almost 400 total in six DADS events.

“It’s these types of programs that I can create,” Willey said Friday.

After briefing the well-fed crowd at Fenwick Island’s Harpoon Hannah’s last Thursday on these programs, Willey yielded the floor to Anderson, a retired federal employee and one of the 1,200 RSVP volunteers who talk about disaster preparedness.

Although Delaware has never been hit directly with a hurricane, and escaped a forecasted heavy hurricane season for the eastern seaboard this year, disasters are not limited to such events of natural catastrophe, Anderson said.

Localized disasters, such as gas leaks and house or business fires, can be just as dangerous — especially when the victims are ill-prepared. Anderson said that residents should plan for a disaster by contacting friends or family who they might ask for assistance in such times, and preparing a route and for shelter when evacuating – keeping pets in mind as well, since most shelters do not welcome animal members of the family. Then, Anderson detailed a list of things victims would need in case of such a localized or regional disaster.

Besides obvious needs, such as food and water, Anderson told those in attendance last Thursday to pack important documents, pills, first-aid equipment, items for entertainment purposes such as crossword puzzle books, and even a spare pair of eye glasses among a host of other items in an easily accessible place so you can grab them and leave, if needed.

“There’s nothing like saying I’m going to get my pills tomorrow and the hurricane comes today,” Anderson said.

Anderson said that residents should keep a checklist and be prepared to leave, or to stay for a long period of time. For businesses, he suggested keeping disc backups or photocopies of all important documents, in another location, in case of disaster and closing before weather becomes too bad, allowing workers time to protect themselves and their loved ones.

“Be prepared to know my business is not as important as my life,” Anderson said. “My business is not more important than my family.”