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Neighbors Helping Neighbors Get through Irene

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August 29, 2011

AUGUSTA, Maine - Riding out Hurricane Irene in Maine was an even greater challenge for those with physical, medical, sensory or cognitive disabilities. One of the most important tools is having support mechanisms in place beforehand, emergency response planners say.

Knowing where the people are who need additional assistance is especially critical, according to Lynette Miller, a spokesperson for the Maine Emergency Management Agency.

"We urge folks not to be shy about contacting their local authorities and saying, 'Hey, I might need a little bit of extra help in an emergency.'"

Miller says another vital factor in a rural state like Maine is the character of the people who live there. The spirit of neighbor helping neighbor is alive and well in Maine, she says, and in situations such as this weekend's hurricane, they helped in ways too numerous to count.

Miller adds that emergency planners urge people with disabilities to create their own "personal support networks," to help identify the resources they would need during and after a threat like Irene.

"Self-identification drives this process, essentially. We encourage people to offer their contact information and say, 'I would need a little bit of help, and here's what I would need.'"

Authorities also advise people with disabilities to make up a disaster supply kit for their home, with enough supplies to accommodate them for up to five days.

Glen Gardner, Public News Service - ME