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A Journey into the Unknown

Frank Lowe is being honored as a Individual and Community Preparedness Champion of Change.

Frank Lowe

Frank Lowe is being honored as a Individual and Community Preparedness Champion of Change.

While it is an honor to be named a Champion of Change, I know that this would not be possible without the effort and contribution of so many who have supported me.

After I retired from my first career, I knew I needed to find a way to be useful to my community. Fortunately, the New York City Office of Emergency Management (OEM) was looking for someone to focus on the senior population of the city and hired me as a consultant. Faced with the task of effectively reaching out to over a million seniors, it didn’t take long for me to realize this was not a one man job. Fortunately, there were so many others who were eager to offer advice and help in preparing seniors to respond to emergencies.

Six years ago, I was added to the staff at OEM as Senior Outreach Specialist. In this position, I was able to implement some of the things I had after engaging seniors and giving presentations on emergency preparedness in all the five boroughs. This one-on-one contact taught me that, while many were reading our brochures on making emergency plans, few had actually followed the advice offered in those brochures. While discussing this problem with my colleagues, I proposed an interactive workbook to guide seniors through the process of preparing for emergencies and disasters. After a year and a half of research and development, MY EMERGENCY PLAN was born. MY EMERGENCY PLAN is an emergency preparedness workbook, and it has proven to be incredibly popular not only with the seniors but also with other age groups. It has become our flagship emergency preparedness guide and is now available in print in 13 languages and online in 22 languages.

Yet, I knew that there were still populations that MY EMERGENCY PLAN wasn’t reaching, particularly those confined to their homes and those who cannot see. To reach out to the homebound, I engaged the Visiting Nurse Service of New York and Meals on Wheels, and they helped distribute 17,000 copies of our brochure. As for the blind, we recorded each of our guides and distributed them on tapes and CDs to organizations that work directly with this constituency, such as Lighthouse, the Helen Keller Institute, Jewish Guild for the Blind, and Visions. The work to prepare our communities never ends, and there will be challenges on this ongoing journey. But each challenge proves to us that there is much more to learn—and much more to do.

Frank Lowe is a Senior Outreach Specialist for the New York City Office of Emergency Management. He oversees Ready New York, a campaign to encourage New Yorkers to ready themselves for emergencies.