Preparedness requires ‘whole community’

LIHU‘E — Preparing for any disaster is always good, said Lisa Gelling, a state Department of Health public educator.

On Saturday she joined other members of the health department, Medical Reserve Corps., in coordinating a disaster preparedness exposition at Kukui Grove Center.

“This year, natural disasters have tested our response ability across all levels of government,” President Barack Obama said in a White House news release announcing National Preparedness Month. “This September also marks the 10th anniversary of the tragic events of September 11, 2001, which united our country both in our shared grief and in our determination to prevent future generations from experiencing similar devastation.”

Rosemary Reder was among the dozen vendors offering information and resources to help Kaua‘i residents and visitors be prepared. The decorated military veteran was helping Jim Jung at the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary exhibit.

But deeper than the blue uniform of the USCG Auxiliary, Reder fished out an American flag, a symbol of the hat she wears as the president and founder of the American Flag Society, a not-for-profit organization whose goal is to inform and instruct people, businesses and organizations of the integrity of the American flag.

One of the observances of the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks will be the flying of the American flag at half-staff in tribute to the victims and heroes of that tragedy.

“I was born in New York City,” Reder said. “I’ve worked at the World Trade Center as a Guardian of Liberty, worn protective body armor as a guard for the president of the United States. I have also served many years with the United States Coast Guard, the USCG Reserves and now, the USCG Auxiliary.”

She said a lot of people don’t know too much about the flag. Her statement was put to the test when a passing shopper looked at her, speechless in response to her question, “What does the red in the American flag symbolize?”

Reder has been in charge of numerous missions and disaster relief efforts, including hurricanes, strikes, blackouts, and walkouts, according to the American Flag Society website.

Obama said preparedness is a shared responsibility and his Administration is dedicated to implementing a “whole community” approach to disaster response, the White House release states.

“This approach requires collaboration at all levels of government, and with America’s private and nonprofit sectors,” Obama said in the release.

His statement became reality as the state DOH was joined by the Kaua‘i Civil Defense, Kaua‘i Police Department, Kaua‘i Fire Department, Kaua‘i Amateur Radio Club, Costco, the American Red Cross-Kaua‘i Chapter, the USCG Auxiliary and the Salvation Army whose mobile canteen served volunteers, and the Catholic Charities whose representatives described themselves as “the second responders (to disasters).”

The county Agency on Elderly Affairs and RSVP volunteers followed through on its Kaua‘i’s One Thousand Acts of Kindness, integrating the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks with the national stance on preparedness.

“We have been tested once again by Hurricane Irene,” Obama said in his Aug. 31 statement. “While affected communities in many states rebuild, we remember that preparedness is essential. Although we cannot always know when and where a disaster will hit, we can ensure we are ready to respond.

“Together we can equip our families and communities to be resilient through times of hardship and to respond to adversity in the same way America always has — by picking ourselves up and continuing the task of keeping our country strong and safe.”

• Dennis Fujimoto, photographer and staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 253) or dfujimoto@ thegardenisland.com.

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