NORTHEAST PENNSYLVANIA — With their proximity to major cities like Philadelphia and New York City, Wayne and Pike counties have experienced the unusual trends of population spikes resulting …
NORTHEAST PENNSYLVANIA — With their proximity to major cities like Philadelphia and New York City, Wayne and Pike counties have experienced the unusual trends of population spikes resulting directly from some of the worst disasters in modern history.
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, as former metropolitan vacationers abandoned their high-rises for the Poconos, locals frequently drew the comparison, “It hasn’t been like this [since] 9/11.”
It bears remembering, though, that even bucolic oases from the relative dangers of city life see their own share of emergencies and disasters—natural and manmade. And when the worst-case scenario becomes a reality, being prepared can make all the difference.
According to Wayne and Pike counties’ hazard mitigation plans—both of which have been updated within the past couple of years—flooding is by far the most likely and significant threat facing the area. Flood events can arise slowly over time, or come in flash. Its effects range from damaging personal property to threatening residents’ lives.
According to www.Ready.PA.gov, residents should prepare for flooding by putting together an emergency supply kit (see “What’s in your go bag?,” page 15, and “Save your information,” at riverreporter.com/fire-ems) and developing an emergency plan (see “Make a plan,” page 7) for everyone who lives in your household. The state also encourages residents to visit www.floodsmart.gov, where you can assess your home’s flood risk and find options for flood insurance.
During a severe flood, remember to get to an area of high elevation and to avoid driving. Half a foot of water is enough to cause drivers to lose control or stall, and just one foot of water is enough to float most vehicles. Pennsylvanians can call 511 to access their region’s current road conditions.
As anyone who has spent a full year in this area can attest, winter storms are a fact of life in northeastern PA. According to Wayne County’s disaster plan, “winter storms can cause more long-lasting damage than any other severe weather event.”
According to the state, all households should be stocked with rock salt and sand, snow shovels and other snow removal equipment, and enough clothing and blankets to keep you and your family warm.
If your home has no heat during extremely cold weather, close off unneeded rooms and stuff towels or rags in the cracks under doors. Cover windows at night. Cover pipes with insulation or newspapers and plastic, and allow faucets to drip a little during cold weather to avoid freezing.
Another tip: wear layers of loose-fitting, lightweight, warm clothing. Several layers of lightweight clothing will keep you warmer than a single heavy coat.
Between 2008 and 2021, there have been 12 fire-related deaths in Wayne County. Pike County experienced 1,920 structural fires between 2017 and 2021.
There are plenty of practical steps you can take that drastically reduce your risk of experiencing a house fire.
Install smoke alarms on every level of the home, in the kitchen and in every sleeping area. Smoke alarms should be tested once a month and batteries should be replaced twice per year.
Basic kitchen safety can make a big difference as well. Cooking accidents are the main cause of home fires, and unattended cooking is the leading cause of kitchen fires. Never leave your kitchen while frying, grilling, boiling or broiling food. Don’t get distracted by other people in the kitchen or by electronic devices. Keep flammable things like oven mitts, paper towels and food packaging away from a lit stove, and keep a lid nearby in case you need to use it to smother a grease fire.
If the past few years have been any indication, rural communities are not immune to the outbreaks of disease. To date, Wayne and Pike counties have experienced more than 300 deaths from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Unlike Sullivan County, Wayne and Pike do not have public health departments at the county level. During the COVID-19 pandemic, both communities coordinated with entities like the PA Department of Health, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Wayne Memorial Health System to provide updates, testing and vaccination clinics.
To address a more specific, ongoing concern in the area, the Pike County Commissioners formed the Tick-Borne Disease Task Force in 2015. To reduce the risk of tick-borne diseases like Lyme disease, the task force urges hikers to wear light-colored clothing to help spot ticks, avoid contact with grass or brush, use products containing DEET for skin and Permethrin for clothes, check gear and pets for ticks before returning home, and throw clothes in the dryer as soon you get home.
Radon is an odorless, invisible, radioactive gas naturally released from rocks, soil and water. It can get into buildings through small cracks or holes and build up in the air. Radon is the leading cause of lung cancer after smoking cigarettes, and it’s the leading environmental cause of any cancer. Around 40 percent of homes in PA have elevated radon levels.
There is information available online to give homeowners an idea of what the average level of household radon is in their area; see, for example, www.dep.pa.gov/Business/RadiationProtection/RadonDivision/Monitoring/Pages/default.aspx.
However, federal and state environmental agencies urge all homeowners to directly test for radon, which is relatively easy and inexpensive to do. Radon test kits can be purchased online or at most home hardware stores.
If your homes’ radon levels are too high, a radon mitigation system might need to be installed.
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