Emergencies and disasters

PHOTO: Hurricane Irene damage on Flower Avenue, 2011.


Hurricane Joaquin will strike or brush by the area this weekend, but are we ready?

It’s an emergency Takoma Park is facing and has prepared for.

However, the same cannot be said for localities across the globe. The world is watching Europe suffer through a refugee crisis. More than 360,000 refugees are fleeing war, ISIS, oppression or other issues.Thousands have died or disappeared. European countries are unprepared to keep up with the flow of refugees and must refuse more.

What if we were faced with thousands of evacuees? Are we ready for that?

The close of September is a good time to think about preparing for situations such as refugee relocation, hurricanes, terrorist threats or power outages.


The Takoma Park city council proclaimed September Preparedness Month. The purpose is to get citizens, especially families, to plan for emergencies. They are encouraged to make that plan now.

“The first twenty-four hours are the worst,” said Takoma Park Emergency Preparedness/Planning Manager, Ron Hardy.

car damage

Hurricane Sandy damage in Takoma Park, 2012. Photo by Bill Brown.

These disasters take a tremendous amount of coordination with the jurisdiction, hospitals and police. Coordination is important, not only to help people, but later to get governmental funds required to repair the city.

“Get a kit, make a plan, be informed; we try to encourage people to follow that,” said Jennifer Kurtinitis, co-chair of Takoma Park Emergency Preparedness Committee.

Kurtinitis said making emergency kits ensures supplies will always be in one place and easy to find.


Takoma Park Emergency Preparedness Committee meeting, September, 2015. Left to right: Kathe Quinn, Andy Kelemen, Fred Levinson, Claudine Schweber, Jennifer Kurtinitis, Buddy Daniels, and Ron Hardy. Photo by Bill Brown.

Severe storms

The largest local disaster threat is severe storms, said Hardy,“The most severe around here would be a tornado.”

The city wants citizens to prepare themselves. Citizens should be ready to survive without water and electricity, for example.

Should Takoma Park become a site of refugees displaced by emergencies, that job may be beyond the city’s scope, said Hardy. Montgomery County and the State of Maryland would take the lead. But the city might be called upon to assist.

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Hurricane Sandy damage in Takoma Park, 2012. Photo by Bill Brown.

Takoma Park would need “some place with adequate restrooms, ideally food preparation, shower facilities, a sleeping area, recreation area, etc,” said Kurtinitis.

“It really comes down to what has happened, where, how many people have been affected and an estimate of how long they might be displaced. We try not to designate locations far out in advance because a lot of that information will affect where a shelter is set up,” said Kurtinitis.

Family priority

Some emergencies may require citizens to leave their homes.

“Making sure you know how to get out of your house and have a place to meet,” is top priority for any family, said Kurtinitis.


Takoma Park Fire Chief Jimmie Jarboe with Emergency Preparedness Committee member Buddy Daniels at the committee’s 2015 Takoma Park Folk Festival booth. Photo by Eric Bond.

Takoma Park’s Emergency Preparedness team educates the community.

The team hosted an emergency table at the Folk Festival, conducts emergency kit promotion, posts fun facts to the Emergency Preparedness Committee website, works with apartment complexes to talk with residents about preparedness and plans to host an Emergency Preparedness Trivia Night.


Hurricane Preparedness Tips, excerpted from an Oct. 2 Takoma Park Police Department bulletin

• Keep flashlights and battery-powered radios with extra batteries on hand, along with a basic first aid kit, emergency food and water, and a non-electric can opener.
• Listen to the radio or television for hurricane progress reports.
• Bring in outdoor objects such as lawn furniture, toys and garden tools; or anchor objects that cannot be brought inside but that could be wind-tossed.
• Remove outdoor objects such as lawn furniture, toys and garden tools; or anchor objects that cannot be brought inside but that could be wind-tossed.
• Clean out gutters.
• Turn the refrigerator and freezer to the coldest setting in anticipation of a power outage. Open the door only when necessary and close quickly.
• Refrain from putting out trash cans the night before the regular pickup.

During Power Outages

• Keep a sufficient supply of flashlights and extra batteries on hand to provide lighting during power outages.
• Avoid using candles for lighting. Use a battery-powered flashlight.
• Never use a candle when fueling equipment such as a kerosene heater or lantern, since the candle flame can ignite fumes from the fuel.