Are you feeling all right? You look sort of under the weather and a bit flushed. Do you have a fever? Was that a cough? Gee, we hope it’s not THE FLU! ‘Cause, if it is, it might be the beginning of the PANDEMIC, the spread of a particularly virulent strain of influenza that may be sweeping the planet this year as fast as birds (it’s an avian flu), airplanes, sneezing, doorknob touching, and french-kissing can spread it. IF, that is, a nasty avian flu mutates so it can spread among humans, a possibility great enough to make federal and international health organizations extremely nervous.
But, you’ve known about this for ages, right, Dear Reader? And you have an emergency plan for when suddenly half the population is more occupied with being sick as a dog (or in this case a bird) instead of being at their workplace. You are totally prepared for the possibility that hospitals, police and fire stations, subway trains, power plants, grocery stores, and city hall will be crippled by reduced staff, and less able to provide protection, food, warmth, and curbside recycling, right? Right?
Well, if YOU aren’t, Dear Reader, Wolfgang is! Wolfgang Mergner is the co-chair, along with Police Chief Ronald Ricucci, of the city’s Emergency Preparedness Committee. In their Oct. 27th report to the Takoma Park city council they assured them that there is indeed a set of contingency plans for various emergencies such as a pandemic.
They reported to the council that their committee is chugging along, preparing for The Worst, despite some undermining neglect from the county. A number of city residents took county CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) classes — two of them being councilmember Terry Seamens and his wife– but the county never informed the committee who they were. As a result the committee does not know who in the city is trained and available to help in the event of an emergency. Except councilmember Seamens and his wife (yes, yes, we see you waving your arms and pointing at your cool CERT helmet, councilmember.)
Mergner told the council that fortunately the county has recently appointed someone to the newly created Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security who will clear that up and who promises to be more helpful and cooperative with Takoma Park in the future.
In case you don’t know, Dear Readers, the emergency preparedness folks are trying to get the message to YOU that in an emergency situation, whether it be a power outage, a tornado strike, a pandemic, or a terrorist attack, you will be pretty much on your own at first. The more people who know this and are prepared for it, the better off we will be. You need to stock up on food and supplies to get you through a few days. Also, the more people in the community who have emergency preparedness training, the better. Take a look at the EPC’s web site to get an idea of what you should be doing.
There is an opening on the committee, if you are interested.
Chief Ricucci said that manuals have been written for a city exercise to practice emergency drills. Your Gilbert wants to know if residents can play, too. We want to lead a mob of unprepared citizens storming the house of the nearest CERT volunteer to steal his food.
The council also heard a report from the Ethics Committee. The council and the committee agreed that proposed changes to the council’s ethics rules were not ready for prime time, so they were taken back for rewriting. These ethics rules have to do with conflict of interests. Councilmember Dan Robinson was particularly keen on making some changes, saying the rules as they now exist are confusing and contradictory. By his interpretation, he said, they would have prevented him from running for council had he not left his business before the election. HIs business had a contract with the city and the rules apparently say that would have been a conflict of interest making him ineligible to serve.
Robinson was in favor of allowing such a situation under certain circumstances. The rest of the council was leery of the idea, however.
The council reviewed the New Hampshire Corridor revitalization plans and progress. Trees have been planted along the power transformer station fence. Councilmember Snipper observed that the plans do not emphasize bike or bus traffic sufficiently to his liking. He was assured that the plans were only vague on that point because they were still in the early stages of development.
Yes, Dear Readers, there was a Round Three in the Blower Bout, the request by a number of local environmental activists to ban gas-powered leaf-blowers. Seth Grimes, one of the letter’s signers, stepped up to the microphone during Citizen Comment to respond to the Mayor’s statement last week. Actually, Grimes tried to take the bout out of the discussion, urging the council to “come over to our side,” saying that “We want to be partners with you,” and asking them to show respect for “every major environmentalist” in the city who signed the letter.
He spoke in support of a ban as well, noting that, despite Mayor William’s claim that the city “does not ban things” it banned, among other things, leaf and rubbish burning. He said that a ban would be phased in and that it was possible to set up a “trade-in” program, exchanging electric blowers for gas ones.