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Authorities provide terror tips at Forest Hills security fair

Carrying a flashlight, packing a "go" bag and keeping hard candy in the house were among the tips given out at an emergency preparedness fair in Forest Hills last week.

Sponsored by the Forest Hills Action League in conjunction with HSBC bank, the fair featured representatives from the city police and fire departments, the Red Cross, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and about 10 other agencies and companies.

"I think it pays to be a little bit prepared for any possible emergency," said Barbara McGregor of Forest Hills. "Just thinking ahead to times when you might not be able to zip down to the grocery store is a good idea."

McGregor was one out of about 75 people who picked up literature and asked questions of representatives of agencies and companies who set up tables at the HSBC bank at 107-15 Continental Ave. on April 9.       

"I learned from the Fire Department that if there's a fire, you should put your hand up against the door to see if it's hot before opening it," said Mario Verardo, an HSBC branch manager. "If it's too hot, it may not be a good idea to open it. The fire could explode."

HSBC became involved in hosting the emergency preparedness event after Norbert and Estelle Chwat, the presidents of the Forest Hills Action League community group, opened an account with the bank, said Rosemary Cruz, a small business relationship manager at HSBC.

"They asked if we would participate, and we thought it would be good for the bank to get involved in the community," Cruz said. "It's nice to have a company to support and give a little back to the community."

Philip Ferrante, a representative of Key Food supermarkets, said in case of emergencies, people should avoid stocking up with bulky, large containers of food. Instead, they should keep small containers of non-perishable foods that are ready to eat and easy to carry.

Boxed milk, tuna fish in foil packets and peanut butter are good selections of emergency food, Ferrante said. Hard candy is also a good idea because it gives the comfort of eating when there is not a lot of food around.

At the table for the Office of Emergency Management, Michael Den Dekker distributed handouts with checklists of what people should have in their and "in-home survival kit" and "go bag," an easily portable bag packed with essential items in preparation for being away from home for a while.

A battery-operated radio and flashlight, essential medications, a small regional map and a copy of important documents were among the items that should be included in the "go bag."

Essential items to keep on hand at home include unscented bleach or iodine tablets for disinfecting water, carbon monoxide detectors, smoke detectors, fire extinguishers and non-perishable, ready-to-eat canned foods.

"This isn't new information," Dekker said. "We just took life for granted for quite a while. 9/11 was a wake-up call."

In addition to going through emergency items to keep on hand, Dekker also advised people to always be aware of where the exits to a room and building are, and to prepare a household disaster plan that includes two places to meet after a disaster: one close to home and another outside the neighborhood.

"I was very glad to see this [event] because we've had no community action here, and this is a high-risk area because of the Jews and the synagogues," said Francine Gray, a Forest Hills resident.

"Since about a year ago, I keep certain items on me if I go onto the subway, like a flashlight, a cloth to cover my face and water."

Other organizations that participated in the emergency preparedness fair included the North Shore University Hospital at Forest Hills, the city Department of Transportation, Parkway Hospital, Medical Hall Pharmacy, Key Span and Verizon.

Reach reporter Tien-Shun Lee by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com, or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 155.

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