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Lean on Me program evaluates disaster preparedness

Okaloosa-Walton Medical Reserve Corps volunteer and Lean on Me Project Coordinator Peggy McDeavitt poses with a community member during a Lean on Me visit after teaching her how to complete her individual emergency plan. [SPECIAL TO THE NEWS BULLETIN]

FORT WALTON BEACH — Hurricanes and tropical storms can develop quickly in our area and the only way to successfully be ready is to have a plan before a storm becomes a threat. Severe weather can be catastrophic to community members of all ages, but vulnerable individuals — people with one or more disability who are 65 or older — are at the most risk.  

The Okaloosa-Walton Medical Reserve Corps offers free preparedness support to vulnerable individuals and their families through an outreach program called “Lean on Me.” The Florida Department of Health program is a free service delivered by credentialed volunteers that help make this mission possible.

Program volunteers conduct in-home preparedness consulting to vulnerable Okaloosa and Walton County residents. They ensure community members know if they are going to shelter in place, evacuate or go to a shelter, then complete a plan and check lists to help guide the resident on assembling disaster supply kits and what actions to take. 

The volunteers are trained to educate community members on measures such as individual health conditions, pets, family members, and other needs they may have.  Upon each visit, participants receive a small disaster supply box, first aid kit, flashlight, and a weather radio.

“Since the Lean on Me program began offering this free service to our community members, we’ve seen an increased confidence in our vulnerable populations. They now know what to do, where to go, and who to call during emergencies, Karen Chapman, Okaloosa Department of Health director, said. 

“We’ve successfully conducted Lean on Me visits to 87 vulnerable community members in the past year and we expect that number to continue to increase.”

The OWMRC is committed to providing these services to as many vulnerable residents as possible.

Participants must request this service by calling Peggy McDeavitt, 830-0743 or emailing Katie Scott,

Visit to learn more about emergency preparedness,

This article originally appeared on Crestview News Bulletin: Lean on Me program evaluates disaster preparedness