|By Michelle Kealey|
AGAWAM The Agawam Office of Emergency Management is taking steps to make sure senior citizens in the community are prepared for a power outage emergency by supplying them with glowsticks.
The Office of Emergency Management began distributing the glowsticks today at the Agawam Senior Center and will return to the Center to hand more out on July 27 at 1 p.m.
Chet Nicora Jr., director of Agawam Emergency Management, said that the department received funding from Westfield Bank to support the glowstick initiative.
He added that the Agawam Call Fire Department helped both financially and in preparing the glowsticks for distribution.
Nicora explained that he attended a meeting a couple of months ago in which Omniglow representatives were present and gave examples of how glowstick products could be used.
He added that an emergency management department from another smaller community, which has handed out glowsticks said that the program was successful.
Nicora said that Agawam is a larger city and he hopes the program "goes off all right."
With the funding from Westfield Bank and the Agawam Call Fire Department, the Office of Emergency Management purchased 1,000 glowsticks, which last up to 12 hours, from Omniglow.
Nicora explained that the glowsticks came in packages and he, along with other volunteers, opened the packages, placed a piece of string on the glowstick and repackaged them for distribution.
"We put strings on them for seniors to hang it near a TV, bedroom, or where they can reach for it quickly," he said.
Nicora explained that he chose glowsticks as a lighting agent for "obvious safety reasons."
"There is no flame involved," he said, adding that all seniors would have to do is break it, shake it up and it gives 12 hours of light.
For seniors who cannot make it to the Senior Center for one of the two days, Nicora said that Sherry Petrucci, the city nurse, will work with seniors with whom she visits to ensure that they receive a glowstick.
He added that he will also work with the Meals on Wheels program to make sure the participants receive one as well.
While he and other volunteers are handing out the glowsticks, they will reiterate the importance of having a File of Life card on the refrigerator.
He explained that the card is a magnet that has a white card inside that lists all of the medications a person may be on in the event that an ambulance comes to the house and the person is unable to speak or respond.
"A lot of people have [the card], but we want to emphasize the importance of it," Nicora said, adding that they will hand them out to anyone who does not have one.
Nicora said that the glowstick distribution is the first community project for the Office of Emergency Management.
"Part of emergency management is not only dealing and preparing for hazardous materials or a potential terrorist attack ... we are always looking for ways to improve on safety," he said.
One of the ways the Office is looking to improve safety, in addition to handing out glowsticks, is by compiling a confidential list of all of the elderly residents who live alone so that in the event of an emergency, someone can know to check on those residents, according to Nicora.
He added that the Agawam Office of Emergency Management about looking at the "bigger picture rather than just waiting for a bomb."
According to Nicora, the Agawam Office of Emergency Management has been in existence for a long time, but was referred to as civil defense.
He explained that with the creation of Homeland Security over the past few years, it became known as emergency management.
"The Agawam Emergency Management Office has always been in existence," he said. "But, it was never active until recently."
He explained that he was appointed as the director in 2002 and he has about 12 staff members, all volunteers, who meet on a regular basis to prepare for an emergency.
The Agawam Office of Emergency Management is currently located in the Agawam Police Station and will move to the new Department of Public Works (DPW) facility on Suffield Street once it is complete.
Nicora said that the department was able to expand with help from Homeland Security grants.
He explained that in their office is every communication device they would need in the event of an emergency, including a ham radio, radio connections to the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) and surrounding communities, computers and a weather station.
For more information about the Agawam Office of Emergency Management, visit www.agawamem.org.