Resiliency after disasters focus of meeting

JOHNSTOWN – Local volunteers, Red Cross workers and officials and state representatives met at the Hamilton-Fulton-Montgomery Board of Cooperative Education Services Friday to discuss how to bring back a sense of community and help areas devastated by disasters such as June’s flooding in Fort Plain.

According to state Sen. Cecilia Tkaczyk, D-Duanesburg, the intent of the Community Resiliency Forum was to bring together concerned individuals and organizations that can address “critical gaps” that currently exist in preparing for future disasters in Montgomery County.

Presenters from the American Red Cross, Catholic Charities, The Institute of Disaster & Mental Health at the State University of New York in New Paltz and others discussed the social and psychological implications of a disaster on a community, how to handle natural disasters and how to establish groups to help communities recover.

Red Cross Regional Chief Executive Officer Gary Striar said his organization is pleased to be working with state and local government officials and local residents on how to restore the community.

“By working together, we will assure that when disasters strike, the people of Montgomery County are ready for whatever comes their way,” Striar said.

Montgomery County Executive Matt Ossenfort said Friday the biggest thing he learned from the forum was what exactly resiliency meant.

“It is a very new concept,” Ossenfort said. “I think that is the message we are going to take [from] here and move forward: how we can be a resilient community.”

Jeff Smith, emergency management coordinator for Montgomery County, said he has identified six specific tasks and programs he would like to improve on in Montgomery County for emergency situations.

Smith said he was looking to organize shelters, food, animal care, communication and recovery efforts.

“My goal is to have some people volunteer for these specific (tasks), have them meet quarterly, manage these committees, and at the next event, we have a pool of resources to pull from,” Smith said.

“Those few things in the beginning are very essential,” Smith said.

Pastor Gail Adamoschek of the River of Jubilee Church said this forum showed signs Fort Plain is on its way back.

“I have seen tremendous community unity,” Adamoschek said.

According to Adamoschek, donated supplies are being given to homes in need of repair, and skilled volunteers are needed.

In June, much of the village of Fort Plain was damaged in flooding that originated from the Otsquago Creek, killing one and destroying many homes.

An unrelated meeting took place Feb. 22 in Amsterdam to discuss flood recovery plans with the NY Rising Community Reconstruction Program committee.