Friday November 27th, 2015 6:56AM

INK to teach kids, adults how to be prepared

By Staff
GAINESVILLE - September is National Preparedness Month, but the leaders at Gainesville's Interactive Neighborhod for Kids (INK) aren't so sure most people are prepared for emergency situations.

That's why INK has planned its first Personal & Family Preparedness Fair: to inform families of what to do in emergencies and how to get help. The event will be held from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 29, on the grounds of INK, located at 999 Chestnut Street in Gainesville.

"This is the educational component of preparedness for families and their children," said Sheri Hooper, executive director of INK. "In case a disaster happens, instead of having these kids panic and become part of the problem, they could help be a solution to the problem."

On Sunday, INK will give each child, as long as supplies last, a backpack filled with items that would be needed following a disaster, items such as a flashlight, water, notepad, toothpaste and toothbrush.

Bill Wittel, the fair's liaison between public safety and the private sector, said the fair has two purposes: to teach families about personal preparedness, and to explain how local public-safety agencies are able to respond more efficiently than ever before.

For example, Gainesville/Hall County has installed an emergency-alert system, called Citizens Alert, that can notify residents of an impending disaster, such as a tornado, in a matter of seconds. And residents will be able to respond before or after a disaster strikes.

"This system," Wittel said, "can ask you, 'Are you OK?' or 'Do you need help?'"

It also allows public-safety agencies to get help from the public.

"Let's say public safety is overloaded," Wittel said. "In that case, it can send a message to the public saying we need 5,000 bottles of water, for example, in a certain area. And the public can respond."

Residents can download the Citizens Alert system onto their smart phones and other communication devices to receive the messages. They will be taught how to do that at the fair.

"We want to get as many kids and families as possible to download this program," Wittel said. "Right now, only about 1,800 people have done so. Why? Because they don't know about it."

People outside of Hall County also are invited, Hooper said.

"I think the whole Northeast Georgia area could learn just how to be prepared as a family for emergency situations," she said. "We're reaching out to anyone who comes."

Agencies working at the fair will include police, sheriff's and fire departments, the Georgia State Patrol, American Red Cross and other groups.

Hooper said the hope is that this event will become an annual activity for INK.
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