Friday, September 6th, 2019
Think, plan, prepare for worst
By Leslie Gartrell
CELINA - National Preparedness Month has begun, and homeowners can take steps to be prepared, not scared, in the event of an emergency.
Bill Steinbrunner, Mercer County Health District emergency response coordinator, said the county had a firsthand test of preparedness when an EF3 tornado hit Celina on Memorial Day.
After the tornado, officials said casualties and injuries were kept to a minimum thanks to residents' listening to warning sirens and receiving text messages from NIXLE, an emergency messaging system that sends advisories from the Mercer County Sheriff's Office.
Tornadoes are one of the most common natural disasters in the Midwest, according to the American Red Cross. People should go to a safe room, basement or storm cellar if they can.
If people are in a building with no basement, they should seek out a small interior room on the lowest level, making sure to stay away from windows, doors and outside walls.
Ready, a national public service campaign, is designed to educate and empower Americans to prepare for, respond to and mitigate emergencies, including natural and manmade disasters.
The Ohio Department of Health encourages residents to create an emergency kit that's stocked with basic items along with items that fit specific needs, such as supplies for pets or senior loved ones.
The ODH recommends having food, water and other supplies to last at least three days. A basic emergency kit could also include a flashlight, first-aid kit, extra batteries, cellphone with chargers and a backup battery and a battery-powered or hand-crank radio.
Steinbrunner said people should also keep a whistle handy, which could help if people are trapped inside their home and need to signal for help. He also suggested keeping some cash inside the kit in case ATMs are unavailable.
In addition, Steinbrunner recommended keeping a three-day supply of medication and as legal paperwork in the kit.
"People might think of canned food and water, but not their legal paperwork," he added.
The emergency response coordinator said a family whose home was lost in the Memorial Day tornado had to spend the night in the American Red Cross emergency shelter in Coldwater when they could not find their insurance paperwork. The family was able to return the next day and retrieve the paperwork.
Steinbrunner said people should be mindful of their pets in case of emergency. Pet kits should include a leash, harness or carrier to transport the pet; food, drinking water, bowls and cat litter/pan; medications if they have any; and toys, if they're easily transportable.
The American Red Cross said people should keep current photos of themselves with their pets in case they get separated.
Since pets can look alike, this can help eliminate mistaken identity and confusion.
Steinbrunner said people should make an evacuation plan for themselves and their pets, as many hotels and shelters do not accept animals other than service animals.
One of the most important steps people can take to stay safe and organized during a disaster is to have a common meeting place, Steinbrunner said.
A disaster doesn't have to be weather-related, he noted, adding fires and other household disasters could cause family members or home residents to get lost.
A designated meeting place can help people find their way back to family or know when someone is missing if they they don't show up.
Steinbrunner said people should keep copies of phone numbers and addresses in their emergency kit. Since people often use their phones for both, it's important to have physical copies available in case phones die or no internet access is available.
The American Red Cross said seniors and those with disabilities can create an emergency plan that addresses their needs by creating a personal support network that could help prepare them for a disaster.
Steinbrunner added the American Red Cross has a feature called Safe and Well, a website to let loved ones know people are OK after a local disaster. Loved ones can search for a family member, or people can list themselves as Safe and Well.
For more information on how to be prepared, not scared, visit ready.gov.