The weekend’s storms were a reminder that the severe weather season of late summer and early fall has arrived, and a reminder of the value of being ready for emergencies.
As National Preparedness Month gets under way, consider three things to do to be ready:
1. Put information at your fingertips.
Jackson County, Independence and Grain Valley use a company called Nixle to send out alerts to your phone about severe weather and other emergencies such as Amber alerts. Go to www.jacksongov.org/ and click on the Department of Emergency Preparedness and Homeland Security, or go straight to Nixle at http://nixle.com/register.
Blue Springs and the Central Jackson County Fire Protection District (which also includes Grain Valley) use a similar program, CodeRED. Call 816-220-CODE (2633).
Emergency managers recommend having an all-hazards radio, commonly called a weather radio. Not only do those bring in forecasts and other information, they can be set to sound the alarm when the National Weather Service posts a weather watch or warning. The Metropolitan Emergency Managers Committee works with Price Chopper stores to sell the radios for $29.95.
The Weather Service also can send severe weather warnings to newer cell phones via the Wireless Emergency Alert. That will come in as a text message, but there is no charge on a user’s phone bill. The system can find your phone if you’re near a cell tower. One advantage, emergency managers say, is for travelers. Watches and warnings are typically posted by county, and someone far from home might not know what county he’s in.
2. Help yourself, then others.
Many communities have Community Emergency Response Training programs. The idea is for people to have their own families ready to respond to disasters and then be in a position to help their neighbors and the community without placing themselves in danger. Emergencies can range from a power outage to a tornado or even a terrorist attack.
The Independence Fire Department and the Independence Citizen Corps have a class coming up. It meets eight times, Tuesday and Thursday evenings from Sept. 16 through Oct. 9, plus an exercise the following Saturday, Oct. 11. The classes from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. in the training room of the city/county Emergency Operations Center at Fire Station No. 1, 950 N. Spring St. To be certified, participants have to attend all eight classes and the exercise.
The class is free. The manual is downloadable and will be available during the class. Bring a snack if you want to. To sign up, go to www.indepmoep.org or call CERT coordinator Linda Chase at 816-405-4124.
3. Have a plan and a kit.
An abundance of guides and tip sheets is online, from the Red Cross and various government agencies. Another source, tailored to the metro area, is www.preparemetrokc.org.
Preparemetrokc advises that the biggest natural threats for our area are tornadoes, severe storms and floods. There’s also extreme heat and such wintertime risks as ice storms. The metro even faces “a moderate risk of earthquake damage” from the New Madrid fault in southeast Missouri. Manmade disasters range from chemicals spilled during transportation to terrorism, and any of those could lead to orders to evacuate or to “shelter in place.” There are also more common risks such as house fires. Make sure everyone in your family knows a place to meet outside your home in event of fire, weather damage or other emergencies.
PreparemetroKC says there are “six basics you should stock in your home: water, food, first aid supplies, clothing and bedding, tools and emergency supplies, and special items.” The basics are straightforward: Find a dry, secure place for at least three days worth of food and water. Figure on a gallon of water per person per day. Have blankets, sleeping bags and a good tool kit. Think about your family’s specific needs: medicines, baby supplies, medical needs. Have some of these essentials in a daypack or something similarly easy to grab and carry in case you have to leave quickly.