South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Margaret Smyka
Contributing Writer 

Be prepared for coming bad winter weather


October 9, 2012

Preparing yourself for the winter weather was the focus of the Oct. 1 meeting of the Carrick/Overbrook block watch.

Discussion was led by Raymond V. DeMichiei, deputy director of the city's Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security.

He began by asking which is worse: two feet of snow, or two inches of ice? When most attendees responded with the latter, he said that was correct.

With ice, power lines at each individual house are likely to go down. If there is a little ice in the morning, people may not anticipate it when they step outside for the newspaper, and could fall and seriously injure themselves.

We must be very cautious if it is cold, he said.

He also recommended compiling a 72-hour kit for the bad weather containing: manually cranked light and radio; weather radio for emergency updates; first aid kit; personal sanitation items; local maps; cell phones with charges; batteries; and more.

"The kit should leave you self-sufficient for 72 hours," Mr. DeMichiei said.

He also suggested extra days of medication; power bars; LED flashlight; and meals ready-to-eat, or MREs.

"They'll keep you alive but you won't like them," he said of the MREs, which are field rations for soldiers when traditional food facilities are not available.

If evacuated, bring your kit. It can be as effective outside the house as inside, he said.

An attendee said for IPhones, there are Apps available for the National Weather Service and the Weather Channel.

To a question about advice for block watches, he recommended the CERT program. CERT, or the Community Emergency Response Team, will present information about what to expect following a major disaster in terms of immediate services. Block watch representatives will be trained in life saving skills with emphasis on decision making and rescuer safety.

Block watches will also be urged to keep track of neighbors with health issues.

Mr. DeMichiei was asked what Overbrook residents who suddenly lose power during winter storms should do as they cannot get to emergency centers in Brookline or Carrick.

He said the emergency management office understands some neighborhoods cannot reach centers, and is looking into solutions. If residents are in dire circumstances, such as freezing indoors without heat, they should call 911.

"It then becomes a search-and-rescue mission," he said.

An attendee said when Port Authority Transit (PAT) ran busses on Spencer Ave., PAT kept the road clear in snow. But it is no longer a snow route.

Her solution was to pay the surrounding boroughs to come in and clear away the snow as well as they do their own boroughs.

"These boundaries are like the Berlin Wall," Mr. DeMichiei said.

He said after the last emergency, his office spent two days writing private contracts. As a result, there are now pre-agreements in place for some contractors.

"When we're paying the bill, they'll follow our plan," he said.

He recommended when a bad storm hits, the best course of action is to stay home.

"Just hunker down and stay there for three days.

"Have a hot totty and chill out," he said.

An attendee said during a big snow, an elderly neighbor in North Baldwin had his bundled (communication) services go out. She had to walk to his house to help him.

Mr. DeMichiei said the old-fashioned telephones worked in the old days. But today, if your cell phone battery goes out, you're done.

Next, Ashleigh Deemer, chief of staff for city Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak, said Ms. Rudiak ran for office to revitalize the main streets, among other objectives.

Dark storefronts and parking lots "welcome crime," she said.

To address Brownsville Rd., she contacted the Mt. Washington Community Development Corporation (MWCDC). The organization prepared the Warrington Ave. public safety assessment for the Allentown Community Development Corp.

Ms. Rudiak wanted the same kind of study conducted on the Brownsville Rd. business district.

It will be done by the Community Technical Assistance Center (CTAC), which strives to: strengthen the management systems and skills of community organizations; expand the skills and knowledge of community leaders; strengthen community connections between organizations and constituencies; and more.

April Clisura, of the CTAC, said she will collect data on unsafe pass-throughs between buildings, overgrown vegetation, low lighting, and more. She will then produce a narrative and a map of the business district detailing what is dangerous, and ways to address it. It will be done this year.

On another topic, an attendee asked about redistricting.

Ms. Deemer said after every 10-year U.S. Census, city council must make changes to council districts to reflect the new population distribution throughout the city. One of the legal requirements is that the districts must be as equal in population as practicable.

Public hearings will be held before council votes on a final redistricting map.

In the public comment at the meeting's conclusion, an attendee said he found beer bottles and cigarette butts in his backyard. He believes they are from a neighbor he saw outside in the middle of the night, and who has a breaking-and-entering police record. He called 911.

Carol Anthony, who conducted the meeting, said he and his neighbors should get together and start a block watch. An attendee said to get everyone on the street to call 311 about their concerns. The man was also advised to contact crime prevention Officer Christine Luffey.

Ms. Anthony said she makes about 100 calls prior to each Carrick/Overbrook Block Watch meeting. A better method of communication could be arrived at with cooperation among all the block watches, and dialogue with Zone 3.

The next Carrick/Overbrook Block Watch meeting will be at 7 p.m. on Nov. 5 in the Pittsburgh Concord K-5 auditorium.


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