City notes: Be prepared when disaster strikes
The horrifying scenes out of Oklahoma last week drive home a message that I was reminded of just a few days earlier.
The message: it can happen here, and many of us are not ready.
I attended the meeting of mayors and city administrators or managers that takes place each month in Dakota County. Our guest speaker was the regional CEO of the American Red Cross, Phil Hansen. He shared with us the troubling statistic that more than 60 percent of families do not have a plan of what to do if there is a threat to their homes.
Those families haven't talked through with their kids where to go if there are various kinds of threats, like a devastating storm or a fire. Would family members know to go to a safe part of the base-ment if a tornado threat-ened? What is the alternative if they have no basement? Would the kids know to gather at a neighbor's if the house caught fire?
The key steps that all of us should take are to get a kit, make a plan and be informed.
The kit may be the simplest step, but it's one many of us haven't gotten around to putting together. The Red Cross offers a list of items on its website and sells prepared kits. (See www.redcross.org.) Most of us already have the ingredients at home; we just haven't assembled them at a location everyone can reach.
Making a plan is just as crucial. As I mentioned above, every member of the family needs to understand how to respond to different dangers. Doing that properly keeps everyone safe -- including our public safety personnel who need to know immediately if people are missing and perhaps trapped at a disaster scene.
And we all need to be informed about the risks. As brutal as the Oklahoma tornado was, the loss of life would have been worse without the proper warnings. Rosemount families need to make sure they have a way to hear the alerts, too.
Bear in mind that our outdoor warning sirens are not designed to be heard by people inside buildings. Weather radios for the home are increasingly affordable. And for smartphone users, there are free downloads in your phone's app store under "American Red Cross." The apps for tornado alerts and first aid tips could help your family.
In the next year, our city will be working to organize emergency preparations at the neighborhood level in Rosemount. But the work starts in each of our homes. Please take steps today to keep yourself and your loved ones safe.