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Senior Center holds Hurricane Preparedness presentation

July 4, 2018
By MEGHAN McCOY ( , Lehigh Acres Citizen

The community is invited to attend a Hurricane Preparedness presentation later this month at the Lehigh Acres Senior Center.

Director Melissa Berry said the Monday, July 30 event begins at 11:30 a.m. Both Lehigh Acres Senior Center members, and nonmembers are asked to make reservations by Friday, July 20, if they wish to attend the event. The Hurricane Preparedness presentation is free for members and $4 for nonmembers.

David Kirk Sr., who is providing the presentation, said it will be geared towards coming together when disaster strikes. He said he will spend time sharing information about disaster preparedness for individuals, families and seniors.

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"I need to emphasis that people need to be able to care for themselves. It is absolutely true. We are all adults and we have responsibility. Because we have a vulnerable population and not everyone can do that, I'm hoping that different organizations can come guide them," Kirk Sr. said. "We have senior citizens that have medical conditions, low income, no transportation . . . we are looking to bring some light into that."

The presentation will also focus on organizing the community itself.

"Not just you as an individual, but what the public can do to get involved in these efforts," he said.

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Kirk Sr. said it is important to hold these types of presentations because the information provided may fit into an audience member's life, or someone they may know.

He said with Lehigh Acres being a community of lower income families, practicing and preparing for disaster preparedness is the last thing on their mind. Kirk Sr. said they are focused on putting food on their table that week, paying rent and other bills.

"People can be more prepared," he said.

One thing Kirk Sr. has learned through the years is unless you have seminars and events on disaster preparedness on a regular basis people quickly forget.

"Something I always believe in, disaster preparedness needs to be taught year round. Florida is a transient state. We have people coming and going all the time that have never experienced hurricanes and flooding," Kirk Sr. said.

He is passionate about holding these presentations due to his background.

"I've been to Texas, Louisiana, West Virginia and Denver. As a (shelter) manager there I have worked with people and seen what the disasters do to them. It changes their life forever. They are starting their life all over again," Kirk Sr. said.

Part of that background includes being an active member of the American Red Cross as a shelter manager.

"I manage shelters wherever they have a disaster, or need," he said.

Kirk Sr. opened Varsity Lakes Middle School during Hurricane Irma to get people registered.

"The Varsity Lakes Middle School I opened up initially for them to get people registered there. As the storm (Hurricane Irma) was hitting there we were at a population of 2,700 people in that school. They were lined up in the hallways and whatever rooms we were allowed to utilize," he said.

Kirk Sr. said Hurricane Irma was the exception, rather than the rule of hurricanes.

"As it developed everyone was unprepared for it. The county, state, volunteer agencies did not have the resources to help the survivors of it. It became a giant communication and logistics problem," he said, adding that a lot of the resources did not get deployed because of the size of the storm and the amount of debris and flooding on the roadways. "It took a while for the recovery to really start working. We managed to fumble through. We did it. Like every disaster you have lessons that you learned to incorporate to be well prepared for the next storm."

Two of his five years with the American Red Cross, also included working with AmeriCorps.

In addition, his background also includes working with FEMA for three years with the Disaster Recovery Center helping people apply for benefits they need following a disaster.

Kirk Sr. also is a part of CERT, the state emergency response team, where he works as a disaster center recovery manager at Disaster Recovery Centers. The centers provide a place where individuals can seek assistance to recover from the disaster.

Kirk Sr. said he will use his experiences during the question and answer portion of the presentation to be a storyteller to help the audience get the assistance they need.

All of his volunteer work began after retiring from the Tax Collectors Office six years ago. Kirk Sr. said he enjoyed helping people with their taxes, automobiles and homes.

"I became the information person for the county no matter what they wanted to do. I helped a lot of people and I enjoyed it," he said.

From there he decided to get involved in the Red Cross.

"By helping people there, I'm giving back to my community. It's very rewarding to be able to do that. I'm working directly with survivors of disasters. Hopefully the end result is you sent them in the direction where they can start recovering and get back to normal," Kirk Sr. said.



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