Prepared for disaster

Published 8:31 pm Tuesday, June 4, 2013

PAL President helps create safe havens for children

With last year’s shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School and the recent deadly tornados in Oklahoma, national media attention has fallen on emergency response plans in disaster situations.

Now, a former FBI chief of a counterterrorism unit is helping some local agencies consider their disaster options through his outreach with the Police Activities League.

PAL President Al Powell recently spoke to the Washington Housing Authority board about the evolving threats housing-authority communities face nationally as part of an effort to create safer neighborhoods.

Powell sees it as part of the PAL mission to lend his assistance to the Washington Housing Authority, and other organizations, and encourage planning and roleplaying for different scenarios, from a police-chase suspect holed up in WHA housing to preparing for post-hurricane scenarios.

“It’s just trying to make a safe haven for the kids in the community,” Powell said. “This is just me putting this together because I have the experience to do so.”

According to Powell, the hazards every community faces fall into three different categories — natural, biochemical and manmade — but he said it’s the changing patterns in the way people are dealing with the frustrations of daily life that have become an issue all housing authorities face nationally.

“Just look at what’s happening — folks becoming frustrated with the economy, becoming frustrated with the family structure,” Powell said. “That frustration can present itself as violence when you are pushed to the limit emotionally. That’s something that we need to plan for.”

And it’s why Powell is reaching out on an individual basis to the agencies that have a vested interest in the safety of children: keeping children safe in case of disaster and giving them the opportunity to move ahead with PAL-sponsored programs designed to provide positive options and alternatives to any youth who is at risk of making poor lifestyle decisions. At the same time, the goal is to improve the relationship between the youth, community and law enforcement. The programs are open to all children, regardless of race, sex or religion, Powell said.