By Marco Valle
Editor's Note: For more information on this topic, please read "Red Cross Uses NHPMHS as a Sheltering Site" located in the News category.
In difficult situations, it is human nature to ask the question of how; seldom do we ask if we should. Following a sudden torrential downpour, New Hyde Park Memorial was faced with this decision. On Friday, September 29, 81 elderly residents were transported to our gym. Faculty members dropped all obligations and admirably rushed to the school to provide help anywhere they could. Amidst the chaos, the most important aspect was that these elderly residents were comfortable and taken care of. This issue is further complicated by the fact that classes were supposed to continue as normal on the following Monday. The administration at NHP and members of the Red Cross did an amazing job handling this emergency situation with the resources available to them. Are these resources enough and should NHP have been the designated shelter for these elderly residents in the first place?
Source by Mary Kay Mannle
Some students and faculty question NHP's suitability as a Red Cross shelter given NHP's lack of necessities such as showers in an emergency situation.
After speaking with members of the Red Cross, it was revealed that NHP was chosen to house these elders because we had already stored the necessary equipment. The equipment had been in storage for twelve years following Hurricane Sandy.
While New Hyde Park Memorial had equipment such as cots, blankets and toiletries, it lacked readily available showers. While many of us take for granted the ability to take a hot shower, the citizens sheltered at NHP yearned to have that opportunity. Having access to showers is often overlooked in emergency situations. Feelings of restlessness and anxiety can become even worse when someone does not feel clean. Showers provide an extra benefit by relaxing muscles and thoughts, directly lowering stress and anxiety. While we cannot blame the Sewanhaka Central High School District or the Red Cross for this oversight, we can take showers into consideration when evaluating future emergency sites.
New Hyde Park Memorial is designed to be a place of learning before anything else. Although schools have usable space such as gyms and auditoriums, that does not mean that they are the best place in an emergency situation. Schools are required to be open for a certain amount of school days, it is unfair to place pressure on people in emergency situations for possibly disturbing school hours. Students and faculty alike accounted for changes in the building and placed the needs of these elderly citizens before their own. They changed their daily routines to ensure that the people in the gym were left undisturbed.
To make sure that NHP and the Red Cross are prepared for future emergencies, emergency sites could possibly be identified on how long the emergency situation might last. For example, NHP is a suitable location for short-term sheltering due to our available resources but lacks infrastructure for lengthy emergencies. Areas that have access to facilities such as showers should be designated for long-term sheltering. Hopefully, these changes will ensure that emergency situations can be handled quickly and efficiently in the future.