Station Nightclub survivor: Always prepare for the worst

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From flooding to hurricanes, Rhode Island is prepared for the worst. At the “Rhode to Resiliency” 2017 Rhode Island Preparedness Conference, emergency workers could even attend a workshop on preparing a community preparedness campaign.

Over 300 emergency personnel were invited by the Rhode Island Association of Emergency Managers to the Community College of Rhode Island (CCRI) on Aug. 9 to attend workshops and discuss emergency management initiatives.

Keynote speaker Gina Russo talked to an audience of around 100 people about surviving the Station Club fire and rebuilding her life after the tragedy. After suffering life-threatening internal injuries and burns on over 40 percent of her body, Russo said she refused to be a victim and would be a survivor instead.

“I was only a victim for half a minute when they were trying to figure out whether I was going to live or die,” she said. “From that day on I am a survivor. I have always called myself a survivor. The scars don’t mean anything. I’m standing and surviving.”

Russo said that a lesson she learned that night and continues to share with others is how to always be prepared for the worst.

“I think about my sons, friends and people going out. I always say to them know two ways out. You can be anywhere in the building,” Russo said. “Have a great time and pay attention.”

Another initiative she is working towards is crowd management.
“It’s basically educating bouncers and club owners training their staff – it doesn’t have to be a fire [or] a fight – how to get people out in a controlled and orderly fashion,” Russo explained.

Thanking first responders and EMT workers who were on site at the Station Nightclub, she said surviving a tragic event starts with them.

“You can live through something so tragic, but it starts with all of the firefighters, the inspectors going in there and doing their jobs. And the ones that go in and run into the burning building,” she said, “I’m thankful. I’m so grateful.”

Russo worked to build the Station Fire Memorial Park, dedicating it to the 100 lives lost during the nightclub fire on Feb. 3, 2003. She said continued support and donations are welcomed to keep up with landscaping and supporting survivors and the families of those lost. For more information visit www.stationfirememorialfoundation.org.

Other presentations and demonstrations highlighted lessons learned from the Boston Marathon bombing, a look into the Great Halifax Explosion, rising sea level effects on WaterFire and the effects of hurricanes to the environment.

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