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Archive for Monday, September 19, 2011

Fair aims to help community prepare for disasters

September 19, 2011

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Preparedness fair

9 to 11 a.m. Saturday, South Middle School, 2734 La.

• Douglas County Emergency Management, Lawrence-Douglas County Fire Medical and other agencies will give out information on preparing for natural and man-made disasters

• Fire and medical crews and equipment will be on display, with interactive exhibits for children

• Free preparation-kit basics such as bottled water, flashlights and bandages will be available

Suggestions to prepare from Jillian Rodrigue

• Have a designated meeting place for family members if you get separated or can’t get in touch with each other.

• Practice the family plan for getting to this meeting location.

• Always keep your gas tank about half full — it’s enough to get most places you might need to go in an emergency.

• Keep your cellphone, mobile devices, etc., charged, and consider having the option to use your car to charge them if you lose power.

• If you can, have a contact person (family member, friend, etc.) who lives out of town — this person can relay information to other people and can be easier to get in touch with than someone in-town if cellphone services are strained.

• Text messages frequently have a better chance getting through, even with a delay, than calls.

• Know where and how you can get information, such as text message alerts from local media.

• In addition to basic supplies in your preparedness kit, consider having copies of insurance documents, written medical information (including specific allergies and names of medications) and even games or toys if your family has small children, just to help reduce stress.

• Remember the adage “find what you can and use what you have” — in emergency situations, materials can be used creatively

• If you’re concerned about the cost of making a disaster kit, spread out purchases — try buying one item per month.

Jillian Rodrigue knows firsthand the importance of planning for disaster. She was a college student in Louisiana when Hurricane Katrina hit.

Two years later, she was just two weeks into her new job at Douglas County Emergency Management when the Greensburg tornado hit.

Now the assistant director of the office, she’s passionate about helping the community, she says, by helping its members prepare for — and recover from — the worst.

To help get community members thinking about these issues, she’s helped organize the city’s annual preparedness fair, which will be from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Saturday at South Middle School, 2734 La.

Rodrigue said that information provided at the fair can help with preparing plans for situations including extreme weather, contagious illness, power outages, separation from family, fire and hazardous material spills.

About 170 people attended last year, but she’d like to see more people take an active role in planning for emergencies.

“More people tend to have a plan only after something bad happens,” she said, “but just taking a few simple steps before can make the difference — and it doesn’t have to mean spending a lot of money.”

The first step is always just being aware of risk and accepting that preparing for it is a community responsibility, she said, that includes local government and local people.

“It’s a partnership,” she said.

Rodrigue said that the emergency management office’s efforts weren’t meant to scare people but rather to inform them and to help decrease anxiety, should a disaster hit the community.

“It’s about empowering people, letting them know there are things they can do,” she said.

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