Held on the grounds of University Parkway Baptist Church from 9 a.m.-1 p.m., the Regional Emergency Preparedness Fair had a family-friendly atmosphere Saturday morning, as the area was full of regional vendors there to explain and hand out information about their service organizations.
“We have well over 30 vendors here and some of our emergency response agencies ... to highlight what you might see in a disaster situation,” said Angela Minor, fair representative and volunteer coordinator from the Northeast Tennessee Regional Medical Reserve Corps. “This is the first event of its kind. We are modeling this after something that was done in Knoxville, but we’re hoping to expand this, possibly even do two days next year and working with area schools.”
Minor said many displays and demonstrations had been going on throughout the fair during the morning, including a demonstration by Johnson City Fire Department’s Urban Search and Rescue, who could be seen descending from the roof of the church in setup of a rescue exercise.
The medical reserve corps tent had displays on putting together a disaster supply kit, the American Red Cross gave out lemonade, water and information, and numerous emergency vehicles, including the Tennessee Department of Health’s Mobile Command Center, were available to look in and explore up close.
“It’s great for the public, but it’s also great for our responders, too, to know each other ... so if we’ve got a situation ... we’ve already got a relationship,” Minor said.
Lacie Barrett, who was hanging around the clown station with her friends getting balloon animals, said she felt the event was important for all ages to learn about the emergency services offered in the community.
“It’s important to know ... what’s available to you because if you have an emergency, you need to know who to contact. These people (emergency services personnel), they work really hard ... to provide that for us. It’s important to teach your kids, too, to call 911,” Barrett said.
Scott Thompson, one of University Parkway’s associate pastors, said the local VOAD chapter approached the church months ago to inquire about participating and hosting the event.
“Anything community-oriented we love to be apart of and ... we’re all about helping people and that’s what this is all about, giving people the information that they need to take care of their families,” Thompson said. “When they were talking about doing this, it was just a natural fit for our church. We’re just honored and excited to host this.”
He said the church’s monthly food distribution also coincided with the fair Saturday. Many of those who came to the food pantry also received weather radios and information about being prepared for a disaster.
“We had over 200 families that came through our food distribution, which was about 500 people before it (the fair) even got going,” Thompson said. “They wanted to share information with people who were coming to our food pantry because sometimes folks, low-income folks, don’t get a chance to get the educational information. There’s a lot of neat things and all sorts of different companies are coming together ... to help people prepare for short-term emergencies and even long-term as well.”
According to a news release about fair, some tips for preparing for an emergency or disaster situation include:
- Be informed about emergencies that could happen in the community, and identify sources of information that would be helpful before, during and after the emergency
- Make a plan for what to do in an emergency
- Build an emergency supply kit
- Get involved