John Angelo moved from Columbus, Ohio, to Naples Island more than four years ago.
He has never felt an earthquake.
But he is preparing as if the big one will hit tomorrow.
Angelo, with the help of the city and the Long Beach Fire Department, has developed a plan to help the island and its residents should a disaster strike.
“The number of risks is amplified here on the island,” Angelo said. “We have just three bridges. If a major earthquake hits, those bridges could be compromised and emergency responders wouldn’t be able to get to us.”
About two years ago, a friend recommended that Angelo take the fire department’s Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) classes. The program trains individuals to become responders on any given scene like an accident or active shooters.
While the Naples Island Association (NIA) has had a neighborhood watch program in place, there wasn’t any plan for the island should an emergency happen.
“I was really surprised,” Angelo said. “There was a push to get people to stock up on essentials, but nothing to unite people. How will we do search and rescue? How will we do fire suppression?”
Last October, the homeowners group began drafting concepts and plans on how to divide the island up for community responders — to date, more than 150 residents have volunteered. The group sent its concepts to the fire department to review and critique. After about five months of revisions — and final approval — implementation started last week with a block captain training event at the Long Beach Yacht Club.
But the plan didn’t come without some doubting Thomases.
“I created some scenarios,” Angelo said, “like, how are we going to get back on the island? Who’s going to take care of the pets, or the person across the street who is 90? These aren’t Chicken Little questions; these are real world issues. It’s about acknowledging a wide range of risks with living on the island.”
Angelo believes the plan created for Naples could be adapted to other Long Beach communities. He said that getting the seal of approval from the city will be important to the next community wanting to implement a plan of action because they can start with Naples’ structure and then pare it down or size it up.
“I would love for (the plan) to have more life than just for this island,” he said. “Our island should be proud of it. People should know that there IS a plan. We want 500 people to sign on and say, ‘yes, I will be an informed resident or serve on the committee.’”
It didn’t take much for Nancy Eisner to step up to the plate — she’s always been a block captain on Treasure Island. Not only is she CERT-certified, she also knows CPR and how to use an automated external defibrillator (AED).
“I felt that TI was an island all to itself. If the bridge went down, we would really be in trouble,” she said. “I’m so excited about this chance to volunteer. I’m happy to be a part of this program.”
Details about Naples’ plans are available online at naplesisland.org/cert.