The chief executive of the American Red Cross's Long Island chapter Monday predicted an active hurricane season, and said the coronavirus will make preparations this year different.
At a news conference in Mineola, Neela Lockel issued a warning for Long Islanders: “We are urging residents to adjust their preparedness planning to the new health threats brought on by the pandemic,” she said. “Make time to build an emergency kit in the event that you have to evacuate or shelter in place.”
The emergency kits should include food, water, essential medication, important documents and other special items for family members.
Because of the pandemic, Lockel said, people should pack cleaning and disinfecting items like hand sanitizers and tissues. She also urged people to use face coverings and to keep social distancing.
Additionally, Lockel said that it is vital to create an evacuation plan for families. If people choose to stay with another family, they need to check if anyone in that family is experiencing Covid-19 symptoms.
Red Cross evacuation shelters have new safety measures, including temperature checks, health questionnaires, face masks, modified food distribution and isolation areas, if needed, she said.
Lockel was joined by Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, State Sens. John Brooks and Anna Kaplan, and representatives from the county, state, Red Cross and PSEG.
Patrick Murphy, the commissioner of New York State’s Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, said that since 2012, the state has invested about $9.2 billion in infrastructure and public assistance to mitigate some of the hazards that could happen in the Long Island and New York City area because of coastal storms. He praised the Red Cross for its work and said the organization was “critically important” to the state.
Kaplan, whose district includes Mineola, said that she helped secure $600,000 in funding for new equipment for the Red Cross, including an emergency response vehicle, which has updated equipment and the latest technology. The “new generation” van will help the organization during times of emergency. She added that she would partner with the group on June 30 at 4 p.m. to hold an information session on Facebook Live.
Curran noted that the region is entering the hurricane season with a new reality -- Covid-19. However, she said the county has made strides since Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
“I feel that we have learned so much from Superstorm Sandy,” Curran said. “The debris removal is streamlined and made more efficient. The disclosures and documentation is better. The ways we communicate — moving billboards around and getting the word out to our residents.”
Curran, like many of the speakers, urged individuals to volunteer to help their communities. The Long Island chapter has about 1,000 volunteers, Lockel said, but they are still searching for more. For more information, visit www.redcross.org.
“If you want to help out your community, becoming a volunteer for the Red Cross is one of the best things you can do, Curran said. “ It’ll make you feel good, and it will be good for your community.”