Putting together a family safety plan

It is easy to think that no natural disaster will hit this area. At one time there was no Homeland Security Advisory System, there was no debate over gun ownership, and the post office was solvent.

One percent of water on the earth is drinkable. I have seen many articles suggesting that water is ultimately more valuable that crude oil. Droughts are decreasing food production. The price of food is sky high. Petroleum products are becoming prohibitive in price, creating higher prices in the grocery store.

All of this is to say that natural disasters are not the only hazards that we face on a daily basis. The world is becoming a very unstable and scary place and fear is the enemy. If you have a plan, then fear is less of an issue. I would like to take it a step further and suggest that we need to plan for our communities as well.

Once again planning for the safety and security of your families is the key. Kitchen gardens in the back yard are awesome. Canning and hunting are great ways to ensure that your family eats if the grocery store shelves are empty. Some of the younger people in the community don’t know how to can. Would they be interested in learning? If you are experienced could you share your knowledge? Do your grandchildren know how to can or hunt?

During the derrecho last year I watched a community work together for the good of all. One had the chainsaw. One had a gas stove instead of an electric stove and could cook meals or home can the collective food that would spoil without electricity. Someone else had a generator that was passed around. Another had sufficient gas in his vehicle to get to an area that had power and gas for the vehicle and the generator. We can all work together.

How many people are in our churches that are older or infirm that need help in the event of a disaster. Is there someone in your neighborhood that could use a hand if things get bad? I challenge the churches in the area to know who lives in your service area that will need help. If Aunt Blanche is older and widowed she will need help getting the tree out of her drive or off the house. Surely some of the ladies will have a gas stove and will cook and share with those who need a meal. The churches that came to the Mississippi Gulf Coast after Katrina made the difference between survival and not for some. They were awesome. My question is why? Why can’t we do that for our own?

Communication is mandatory. All disasters suffer communication breakdown. What if you need emergency medical care and there is no way to call? Amateur Radio Operators (HAM) are worth their weight in gold during a crisis. If agencies can’t communicate with each other there is no rescue. If you are an amateur radio operator your services are needed. Please volunteer.

The Red Cross is a wonderful organization. Shelter is mandatory. The Red Cross is the primary provider of emergency shelters. The primary problem for the Red Cross is a lack of volunteers for their shelters. Nurses and others are needed to man the shelters. Once again, please volunteer.

“Mountaineers Are Always Free” is an awesome slogan. Freedom cannot exist without responsibility. One day there will be a disaster too large and severe for governmental assistance to mitigate the effects. Then what? Katrina was that for a short period of time. None of us there thought we would see a storm of that magnitude. I will never forget this young woman that was interviewed by the local news. She lived within a block of the beach, and she lived in a mobile home. The young woman told the reporter that she was going to stay home. She was asked what she planned to do if she got in trouble. Her reply was “Call 911.” I have often wondered if she survived. Many did not.

Is your family prepared? There are resources that are available to help you plan for your family’s needs. Family first, community second. We all have different talents, we can all work together. Consider volunteering in your community. I do. The next time we will look at what you need to keep available just in case. For a more comprehensive list go to our website, either at www.randolphcountycommisssion.org or on Facebook – Randolph County Office of Emergency Management.

We will have additional information available at the Hooked on Fishing Not On Drugs event at the Elkins High School gym Saturday and Sunday, or you can reach me at kagrimesoem@frontier.com.

Putting together a family safety plan

I remember the derrecho last June. I was stuck at the house. The fuel gauge in my truck said fumes, and the power was out. The situation I found myself in was very thought provoking.

There was no threat to my safety or wellbeing, but the sensation of being in post-Katrina Mississippi came flooding back to mind. The ability to drive to the grocery store for a few last-minute items was no longer an option. The only information available was via rumor. Complacency is an easy state to slip into: “It could never happen here or to me.” But it can.

This is the first article in a series of four filled with suggestions on how to keep your family safe by thinking ahead to the “what ifs” in life. If you lose power for a week or more and can’t get out, what will you do? What would you do if you were at work, your children were at school and a disaster occurred? If your home were to catch fire in the night, does everyone know two ways out? Do you have a meeting place so you can make sure that everyone is safe? Having a plan can mean the difference between your family’s survival or not.

The absolute goal is to keep your family safe. Things can and do go wrong. Hurricane Katrina is a prime example of what can go wrong. On the Mississippi gulf coast, 65,380 houses were gone (we called it slabbed) or destroyed. There was no food, water or shelter. Government response was not immediate. If you find yourself in dire circumstances for three to 10 days or more, can you keep your family safe, fed and sheltered?

A family safety plan is relatively easy to make. If everyone in your family group is involved in the planning they will know what to do. Discuss what potential problems you need a plan for. In this area, flooding and mudslides are considered, as are severe winter storms. Is your home in an area that floods? What if we have a very dry summer, lightning strikes and causes a significant wildfire? What if we have an earthquake?

We must each have a plan. Make a list of everyone in your family group, including Fido and Fluffy. If Aunt Blanch lives down the road and she needs assistance in her day-to-day activities, she will need your help. Plan for her needs as well.

Do your children go to school or day care? Does your job require your presence in times of emergency? Who will care for your family while you are at work if your family must evacuate, if it is in the middle of the night, if it is for longer or for different hours than you would normally work? How will you communicate with each other? If you are not together when disaster strikes, do you have a designated place to meet?

Most disasters have several things in common. Communication systems failure is one, and it is a huge issue. Cell phone networks can go down or be jammed with high call volumes. Long-distance calls may go through when local calls will not. One option may be to have an out-of-area contact that family members and loved ones can contact for status updates.

Everyone that your safety plan covers should have a list of emergency contact information that they carry as a wallet card. Younger children can have this information attached to their school bag.

Pick two places to meet. One place should be outside of your home in case of a fire. You may not be able to get home, so the other should be outside of your neighborhood. If your family is scattered and you can’t get home, a central, agreed-upon meeting place could save the day. This information should also be on your wallet cards. If you are home and must evacuate, write a note and call your out-of-area contact with information that others might need if they are concerned about you.

For those of us with children, their safety is paramount. Do you know the schools’ emergency protocols?

Will school busses take them home? Will the school keep them until parents can get them? A good backup plan is to have someone you trust pick up your children. Make sure the school has a list of persons authorized to pick up your children. Another suggestion is to have a “code” word that this person can use with your child. This word will allow your child to feel safe with them. Include these resources and their contact information on your wallet cards. It is so difficult to look up numbers when you are stressed and approaching overload.

How will you know if the Office of Emergency Management has issued a warning or order for evacuation? In a true emergency “I wish I had known” is not a good thing. Make sure your family is informed. The OEM issues warnings through the Nixle program, which is free and delivers text messages to your cell phone or email. To sign up for this service, just go to Nixle on the internet or utilize Facebook and visit the Randolph County Office of Emergency Management page.

The goal is to have a plan in place, so if you get a message requiring a response, you and your loved ones are ready to handle the problem.

In future articles, we will look at suggestions for what you might need if you stay home.

We will also look at what you will need to take if you have to go a shelter. We will have additional information available at the Hooked on Fishing Not On Drugs event at the Elkins High School gym Saturday and Sunday, or you can reach me at kagrimesoem@frontier.com.