By RONDA GREGORY
News & Journal Staff Writer
Contemplating the ravages of the historic derecho storm that raked across West Virginia in the summer of 2012, leaving downed trees, destroying homes and other properties in its wake, Bridgeport emergency services personnel decided to help residents acquire basic skills to better sustain life during times of disaster.
After hosting an all-day expo last year that taught citizens basic preparedness skills, the City of Bridgeport will now host quarterly free workshops throughout the year to teach their residents those same ways to both survive a disaster and thrive through it.
“We decided to do the workshops rather than just an expo, because we thought the skills would be more effectively taught by a hands-on, one-on-one training experience,” explained Andrea Kerr, Bridgeport City Clerk.
Bridgeport Director of Emergency Management Laura Pysz, who is helping organize and head-up the workshops, agreed and said it’s imperative people know how to take care of their basic fundamentals of life – to be prepared to be self-sustaining – if they have to be.
“In the case of disaster or emergency, we want people to be prepared,” she explained. “Part of being prepared is to be sure you have a food and water stockpile.”
Man does need food to survive. So the first preparedness workshop – “Wet and Dry Canning” – is set for Saturday, Sept. 19 at Bridgeport High School. Experts will present these food preservation techniques at four one-hour sessions running from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., so a new session begins each hour to accommodate more participants.
Participants will be wet canning (using pressure cooking) peppers and dry canning (using a lid-sealing technique) rice. All food and canning items and tools will be provided free of charge. “All participants need to bring is themselves,” Kerr stated, grinning.
Pysz said that canning today is becoming a lost art. “Everyone used to can,” she said. “Canning is dying out. Most people have just never learned how to do it.”
In addition to the disaster preparedness issue, Pysz stated it’s just a great all-round skill to have, even in good times.
“Canning, yes, is a way to build your stockpile of food necessities, but also is a way to not waste things from your garden,” she said. “They may can now to have those delicious fresh items on their dinner tables at Christmas.”
Pysz emphasized it’s very important to learn to can the safe and proper way, which participants will learn at the workshop.
“I think canning is very enjoyable,” she said. “It’s very rewarding to have an end product the whole family can enjoy.”
Pysz grinned and pointed out that all participants get to take their “work” home as a yummy type of souvenir.: “You can it; you keep it.”
The Preparedness Committee already has other workshops in the works for their residents. Upcoming workshops on the schedule are: “Food Dehydration” in December; “Gardening” in March and “Water Purification” in June.
Kerr is looking forward to the gardening workshop because she’s always been interested in it. “I would like to garden,” she stated. “I’m hoping that I can learn a thing or two.”
The City wants its residents to take advantage of these free, helpful, and perhaps, life-saving workshop opportunities. “We hope that Bridgeport residents participate,” Kerr said. “We’re here to help and support our community.”
The workshops are for Bridgeport residents. Those interested should register by September 12. To register or for more information, call Pysz at (304) 842-8239; or email to firstname.lastname@example.org.