September is National Disaster Preparedness Month and with the fall tornado season on the horizon, local officials are urging the public to be ready ahead of time.
As hurricanes or earthquakes are unlikely to hit Pettis County, the biggest immediate threat to life and property is from powerful storms. According to the National Weather Service, resurgence in tornado potential in the autumn months has to do with a combination of fast jet stream winds and strong frontal systems that reappear in fall.
Director of Sedalia-Pettis County Emergency Management Dave Clippert said the most important thing is to have a plan in place at home and at work.
“Having a plan and knowing what you’re going to do at home is most important,” Clippert said. “Discuss it with your kids. If mom and dad are at work and the kids are old enough to stay home, or if they have a babysitter, discuss where they need to go in the house. Know what the workplace plan is and where you are supposed to go.”
During a tornado, a room should be selected that is in a basement or an interior room on the lowest level away from corners, windows, doors and outside walls.
The length of time you are required to shelter may be short, such as during a tornado warning, or long, such as during a winter storm or a pandemic. It is important that you stay in shelter until local authorities say it is safe to leave. Additionally, you should take turns listening to radio broadcasts and maintain a 24-hour safety watch.
If disaster strikes, it is also important to have an alternate form of communication with loved ones. During an emergency, text messaging can be more effective than voice calls because it uses less bandwidth and many phones keep sending the text until it is transmitted.
“Another big one that people tend to forget about is having someone to call outside the affected area such as a relative in another state or a good friend where the family can call in and say ‘I’m OK’ and everyone can check in on that person. Everybody can check on each other in one central place,” Clippert said.
During extended periods of sheltering, you will need to manage water and food supplies to ensure you and your family have the required supplies and quantities.
“It’s recommended to have about three days of necessary supplies, food and water enough for each person. Most of us probably have three days’ worth of food in our house,” Clippert said. “It may not be what we want to eat, but it’s there. Lots of canned food — I probably have 10 cans of tuna at home.
“I recommend if people have a barbecue grill or propane stove to have an extra bag of charcoal or bottle of propane available. You can still step outside and cook if possible. Don’t ever bring the grill inside your house or garage. But that’s a possibility. You can still cook some food you have that is still good.”
Other important items are flashlights and extra batteries, blankets, candles, a first-aid kit, and wrenches to turn off utilities, sanitary items and local maps, medications and important documents. A weather radio is also highly recommended. A more complete list is available at ready.gov/kit.
If the situation is truly dire, such as being hurt and trapped in debris, a $1 whistle may be your saving grace as first responders will be actively searching for survivors.
“Local fire departments and law enforcement will search those homes and they mark the homes to say they have been searched and are clear,” Clippert said. “Just hang in there. Yell for help. If you have your cell phone try texting. Your home will be searched after a disaster, I can promise you that.”
It is also important to not forget the pets.
“We tend to forget our pets and there has to be an emergency plan for your pet,” Clippert said. “We have plans that help house pets if an area is destroyed and people are in shelters. We have kennels and things like that we can put up, but if ‘Fido’ needs a special diet we are not going to have that. The pet owner needs to supply that.”
For more information on disaster preparedness, visit ready.gov. The website, sponsored by the Federal Emergency Agency, has several videos and tips along with Disaster Preparedness Month activities.