Homer Boy Scouts and students aid flood victims


Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
Austin Smith, 11, right, and Barry Pouliot, 13, encourage passersby in Homer to help flood victims.

Staff Reporter
HOMER — One sign held up by Boy Scouts seeking donations along South Main Street in Homer to aid flood victims in the Binghamton area asked the question: “What if it were you?”
That question was clearly on the minds of about a dozen members of Boy Scout Troop 79 and a handful of Homer High School students who, in just two days, managed to raise $800 and collect a large stockpile of supplies, including more than 50 cases of bottled water.
“It kind of hits home because last year with Hurricane Katrina we could say, ‘Oh that’s just down south,’” said Scout Dan Weber, who is entering his senior year at Homer High School. “When it hits so near here, you kind of realize nowhere’s safe.”
The dire situation in the Southern Tier this week brought back memories of last April’s flooding for Homer High School senior Anthony Walrath, who has not been a Scout since third grade but was lending a hand anyway.
“Last year, where my dad lives got flooded out pretty bad, and it was really hard to get out there,” said Walrath, whose father lives in Cincinnatus. “So I sort of know where they’re coming from.”
The supplies collected by the Scouts and students will go to the town of Bainbridge in Chenango County, said Dennis Blythe, who helped organize the collection effort.
“The thing is, Bainbridge is just like Homer — three blocks, one grocery store, just a small town,” Blythe said. “It may not be a whole lot in the scheme of things, but hopefully we can give them a little bit of a hand.”
Bainbridge has had no electricity or water for the past couple of days, and residents have been surrounded by floodwaters, Blythe said. He tried to bring a generator to a friend who lives in the area Thursday, but there was no way to reach Bainbridge by road.
Approximately 2,000 people in the area were without power, according to New York State Electric & Gas Corp.
“The water’s receded just enough now to get down there, so we’re going to load the truck up and bring everything we’ve got down there,” he said.
The truck was scheduled to leave at around noon Friday.
The Boy Scouts and students were out in force from noon until 6 p.m. Thursday, and again from 8 a.m. until noon Friday.
“I used to live in the Binghamton area so I felt an obligation because I still have friends and family down there,” Weber said.
He said the local effort is adding up.
“It’s been going all right, we’ve been getting lots of donations and a nice chunk of cash,” Weber said
The Scouts raised $800, said Scoutmaster Michael May. Up to 2 tons of supplies were collected, May said.
Raising the money was not especially difficult, according to Scout Dallas Butler, 11, who attends Homer Intermediate School.
“We’ve just been shaking the can with the money in it, holding up signs and people give us money,” Butler said.
The dedication of the Scouts was laudable, May said.
“The call came in about doing this around 10 (a.m. Thursday), and by noon there were Scouts there manning the booth,” May said. “Even though it’s summertime, we had at least two Scouts and as many as eight or nine there at all times.”
Aside from money and water, the Scouts collected diapers, fruit juice, batteries, plastic foam coolers and other supplies from Homer residents and businesses.
“The Homer businesses have really stepped up,” Blythe said. “Everyone’s donated something, and they should be commended.”



Taking a risk to save others

Firefighters rappel off senior tower to train for rescues from tall buildings.


Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
Les Buchanan rappels down the building

Staff Reporter

Volunteer city firefighter Chris Buttino admitted to experiencing some nervousness Friday as he rappelled down the side of the Senior Housing Center at 42 Church St., but he also had to admit that it was kind of fun.
“Not just kind of — a little more than that,” said Buttino, who was going through high angle rescue training with the Fire Department. “You get a little nervous at first, but once you get into a rhythm it becomes a natural thing.”
The city Fire Department’s special operations team was training under the scenario that a construction worker was trapped along the side of a high building.
“It’s a fairly common scenario in an urban setting,” said lead instructor Don Hewes.
The training allowed firefighters to gain experience rappelling and setting up the equipment safely, Hewes said.
“When we do high angle training, we do it with the same gravity as we would if it were an emergency,” he said. “With HAZMAT (hazardous materials) training, we might have some chewed up gum or water standing in for something hazardous, but with this, the risk is just the same in training as it is in a real situation.”
Ensuring safety includes checking the ropes and equipment needed for rappelling before each person drops, Hewes said, along with setting up a system of checks to make sure nothing goes wrong.
“The entire system is redundant,” he said, noting that at every juncture two ropes are holding up the person rappelling. “And the whole team has the safety aspect of high angle rescue ingrained in them.”
Part of Friday’s drill was getting a feel for some new equipment, including new harnesses and a new hands-free rappelling device.
“Basically when you’re going down, you’re pulling on the lever, and when you let go of the lever, you stop,” Hewes said of the new rappelling equipment. “It allows the rescuer to get right to work saving someone and not wasting time tying the rope off.”
While much of the drill focused on allowing each firefighter to get a feel for rappelling, Hewes planned doing an actual simulated rescue toward the end of the drill.
You never know when skills such as high angle rescue will be needed, said Capt. Ed Beebe.
“We had to do one (rescue) off of a bridge on (Interstate) 81, 15 to 20 years ago,” Beebe said. “A truck went off the bridge and we had to go down with ropes and get him out of the water.”
Modern equipment and extensive training make rescues like that one much more efficient today, Beebe said.
In a true emergency situation, even after following all of the safety precautions, it would take a typical on-duty crew of six about eight to 10 minutes to set up the rigging necessary for a rescue, Beebe said.
“That’s why we do the training, so we can do it fast and safe,” he said.
High angle rescue is just one component of the department’s special operations team, Hewes said.
The department trains for special circumstances, including hazardous material cleanup, confined spaces rescue and high angle rescue, Hewes said.
It does hands-on training like Friday’s drill every month, but many of the skills needed, such as knot tying, are practiced daily.



It’s not a million, but it’s not bad

From staff reports
Who knew that NASA’s 1998 discovery of the mineral hematite on the surface of Mars offered the first evidence that water may have once existed on the planet?
Unfortunately, Monica Dykeman did not brush up on enough geology before she taped an episode of ABC’s “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire,” which aired Friday.
Had she known, the Groton resident would be $25,000 richer, instead of the “mere” $16,000 that Dykeman will receive 30 days from the airing.
Her final question offered four choices: A) feldspar; B) gypsum; C) hematite; D) shale. One was found on Mars and supported the theory that water once flowed there.
Dykeman used her 50-50 lifeline, which narrowed the choice to either gypsum or hematite.
A youth program manager for the Groton Youth Commission, Dykeman decided not to test her knowledge of the sciences. She chose not to answer, settling for the $16,000 she had already won in correctly answering previous questions.
Had she guessed incorrectly, she would have fallen back to $1,000 in winnings.
“I had a hunch and I’m glad I didn’t go with it, but I wasn’t sure either way,” Dykeman said Friday night. “I had watched several shows before me, and their questions seemed a lot easier. With the questions I had, I played the game I wanted to.”