The Sheldon Ballroom at SUNY Oswego was packed to capacity recently, as residents learned how to survive on their own in the case of an emergency.
As visitors watched a PowerPoint presentation, a member of the New York National Guard explained to them the types of disasters that could devastate a community like Oswego. It's this kind of preparation that Master Sgt. Peter Towse, with the National Guard, says can help someone in the case of an emergency.
"It's just getting the idea of having this information on your mind, and having it fresh, so when you go home, or if something happens today even, they're ready," Towse explained. "They have long-term written into the program, so you're ready for seven to ten days to stay in your house. There's also plans to evacuate if you have to do that. And there's also short-term. If a tree falls in the backyard, you'll know what to do."
The National Weather Service says that in recent years, central New York has seen more unusual weather. Most recently, a tornado ripped through the Madison County town of Smithfield last month, killing four people. That same band of severe thunderstorms caused trees and wires to fall on houses here in Oswego.
The training session held in Oswego mirrors others being held across the state as part of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's recently launched New York State Citizen Preparedness Corps.
Towse says the training sessions are meant to help people learn to take care of themselves when first responders may not be available to assist.
"So far, we've taught about just over 10,000 since we started in February," Towse said. "And we've hit I'm not sure how many counties, but we've done about 65 events. We're trying to reach as many as we can. We started off with our goal of 100,000, but I think it's going to get beyond that if we continue the program."
Every person leaves the training with a backpack full of survival items, including a radio, food and batteries. But they also leave with the ability to be their own first responder. Towse says so far residents have been incredibly supportive of the program.