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Community Checks Readiness for Hurricane Season

LAKES OF DELRAY, Fla. -- This is the first of two columns on what adult communities are doing to prepare for this hurricane season. Part II will run next Sunday.

The Lakes of Delray was so hard hit in Hurricane Wilma, it took three years to get their clubhouse back up and running. So they're planning for the worst and hoping for the best during this hurricane season.

A communications run-through on June 3 tested their walkie-talkies and how well 17 volunteers assessed injuries and called them into the incident command center in the clubhouse. They gave four teams two crisis scenarios each, including someone trapped under a tumbled wall unit and a traumatized man wandering around the neighborhood.

To get feedback, Harriet Sol, who started their county-trained Community Emergency Response Team five years with her husband Ed, invited CERT instructor Len Goldstein and Harvey Tatelman, who oversees the teams in 33 adult communities, to sit in on their critique afterward. They were impressed.

"When you go out on an exercise like this, it helps you determine what you need more practice on," Len said.

Since 9-11, when communications failures cost hundreds of New York firefighters their lives, Palm Beach County's Division of Emergency Management has stressed the issue at CERT meetings the Sols attend. But there's no county stash to buy equipment or get the training, so Harriet had to be proactive.

"We asked other communities what we needed, and the board donated $1,500 toward our equipment," Harriet said. "You must have a good board and manager willing to help you financially."

Audrey Libros, a CERT member and a trained paramedic, said residents and clubs in the Lakes of Delray have donated equipment, including medical supplies and bandages, but they still need more. They've stocked kits with seven critical items so they can just grab them and run.

The walkie-talkies are for use inside the gates if cell phones don't work. They've also trained three ham radio operators, now licensed, to make sure they can reach out to fire-rescue and the county's Emergency Operations Center.

Harriet said they had a terrific, free instructor from the local American Radio Relay League. There was a nominal fee for the training manuals. Property manager Stan Latopolski, who attended the critique, said he was setting up a 4-foot temporary antenna they could use for emergencies.

There were questions for Len and Harvey on how to handle the downed wall unit victim, what to do about the traumatized man, and how the team responded to the other crisis scenarios. "In case of an emergency, it will go a lot faster than it did today," Len said.

He suggested they create a system for keeping track of who's in town in each condo building (they have about 2,400 residents), and who's on oxygen or may need other medical attention.

"They can be evacuated to the South Florida Fairgrounds, where medical services are available," Len said.

Stan praised the CERT members in the Lakes of Delray.

"Most residents don't understand they have this volunteer work force working for them," he said.

Marci Shatzman writes about the adult communities in the western suburbs of Boca Raton, Delray Beach, Boynton Beach and Lake Worth. You can reach her at granddame5@comcast.net.

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