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By Margaret L. Smykla
Contributing Writer 

Emergency management topic of February Zone 3 safety meeting

 


The Feb. 19 Zone 3 Public Safety Council meeting featured a presentation by Raymond V. DeMichiei, deputy director of the city’s Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security.

The meeting began with crime prevention Officer Christine Luffey announcing news of the annual “Biscuits Bingo,” a fundraiser for local animal organizations presented by the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police.

The family-friendly event will be held on Saturday, March 8, at Guardian Angels, 1030 Logue St, West End. Doors open at 9 a.m ., with games starting at 11 a.m.

The cost is $20, and tickets can be purchased at the door with cash only. There will be door prizes and a raffle.

Donated bagels will be available for breakfast.

Next, Justin Wasser, of the office of State Rep. Erin Molchany, said there are numerous programs available that residents should look into, like the property tax/rent rebate program, and free tax assistance from United Way.

Liz Style, formerly of the Mayor’s Office but who now works in public safety, discussed plans for St. Patrick’s Day on the South Side.

Last year’s pilot program featured free shuttle service from noon until 4 a.m. that took people from free parking in the Second Ave. parking lot to SouthSide Works and back.

The buses on Carson St. were on time, so traffic was moving.

Even residents parked in the free lot and took the shuttle around, she said. This service will be available again this year.

The 1700 block of East Carson St ., where there are no bars, will be used as a taxi stand. Only the current taxi companies will be allowed in that area.

The police plan to have plainclothesmen and officers on patrol.

Ms. Style also said the South Side Bar and Restaurant Association will contribute up to $250,000 to help patrol the area through 2014.

To a question about what to do about St. Patrick’s Day parties that begin early in the Flats, with attendees drunk by 9 a.m ., Zone 3 Commander Catherine McNeilly said to call 911.

To a comment that back alleys are problematic that day with revelers’ using them as restrooms, public safety council president Ken Wolfe said to call 911.

He said if residents don’t call, the department does not know where there is a need to send police.

Callers should jot down a description of the offenders, and also of their shoes. Mr. Wolfe said while offenders may change outerwear, they do not change shoes.

To a question of whether the police can stop someone based on a description if the officer does not see a crime occurring, the commander said it depends on the situation.

Mr. DeMichiei said to think of it as buying a lottery ticket: it might happen, but it definitely won’t if you don’t make the call.

To a question of how many officers will be at the St. Patrick’s Day parade, the commander said they are from different zones, not just Zone 3.

She also said the parade has been held for about 100 years, and each year it is fine tuned.

In her concluding remarks, Ms. Style reported National Night Out this year will be on Tuesday, Aug. 5.

In his brief presentation, Mr. DeMichiei discussed volunteering through the city of Pittsburgh’s Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security.

Among the volunteer opportunities is to be a member of a Pittsburgh Community Emergency Response Team (CERT).

The CERT program educates people about disaster preparedness for hazards that may impact their area, and trains them in basic disaster response skills like fire safety, light search and rescue, team organization, and disaster medical operations.

CERT team training provides team members with classroom and hands-on training in real-world emergency response procedures.

CERT training is usually in two-and-a-half hour sessions one night a week for seven weeks.

The site of the upcoming training has yet to be determined, Mr. DeMichiei said.

Training includes fire safety and utilities, urban search and rescue, disaster psychology, terrorism awareness, and more.

People can also volunteer to support shelter operations, he said.

Shelter Operation Staff support other first responding personnel in the set-up and maintenance of shelter locations during extreme weather and hazards.

The volunteers help ensure that shelters provide a safe and comfortable atmosphere for their neighbors and their pets.

There are also opportunities to volunteer to be on an American Red Cross Disaster Assistance Team to provide disaster relief services on an on-call basis.

In Pittsburgh, teams support victims of fires, and may provide free emergency food, clothing and shelter assistance, and assist disaster victims in planning their immediate and long-term recovery.

People may sign up for as many of the volunteer opportunities as they like at: http://www.pittsburghpa.gov/ema, or calling 412-255-2633.

Act 33 background checks will be done on all volunteers.

For their service, volunteers receive workmen’s compensation, money for medical expenses, death benefit and more.

The next public safety meeting will be on March 19, most likely, in the Zone 3 station.

 

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