By now most of you have heard about the tornados that ravaged Oak Grove
and the surrounding areas last week. Many of you have probably even spent
time refreshing your memory on tornado safety. Coincidentally, last week
was also Severe Weather Awareness Week which has one simple goal: save lives.
As a part of Severe Weather Awareness Week, St. Mary's Medical Center
communicated information on various emergency preparedness topics each
day to staff. In the wake of our recent weather, I wanted to take the
opportunity to share some of those topics with the community.
First and foremost, weather disasters happen all the time. We tend to be
ill-prepared because we think it won't happen to us. Well, according
to the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters, an average
of 32 percent of the world's population was affected by a natural
disaster between 1994 and 2013. That's about 1 in 3 people. It could
happen to any of us. So let's get prepared.
One of the most crucial factors in an emergency is reliable communication.
Receiving the latest warnings during severe weather is critical in making
proper decisions. There are a number of tools available to stay informed
of current conditions during weather-related disasters:
• National Weather Service warnings are communicated via television,
radio, the internet and weather apps. Check them regularly with your preferred method.
• NIXLE Mass Notification Alerts: You can sign up to receive weather
and other emergency alerts through NIXLE, the new mass notification system
that Central Jackson County Emergency Management is now using. Text your
ZIP code to 888-777 or go to
for more information.
• NOAA Weather Radio, a service of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration (NOAA), is one of the few devices available that can warn
you of impending weather 24-hours a day. It provides continuous broadcasts
of the latest weather information from local NWS offices. Most stations
operate 24 hours a day and repeat weather messages every 4 to 6 minutes.
Messages are routinely updated every 1 to 3 hours depending on weather
conditions. During severe weather, NWS warnings will interrupt routine
weather broadcasts with the warning. If your radio is set to alert mode,
it will turn on automatically, set off an alarm, and broadcast the message.
NOAA weather radios can be purchased at many places locally such as Price
Chopper, Ace Hardware, Wal-Mart and others and typically cost less than $40
Stock up on supplies
Another, often neglected, critical item during an emergency is a Disaster
Supply Kit. Be sure you have the following basics before impending storms
as stores sell out quickly:
• Water - one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days
• Food - at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food (canned
goods, granola bars, etc.) along with a manual can opener
• Battery-operated or hand crank radio, NOAA Weather Radio with tone
alert, extra batteries
• Flashlight with extra batteries
• First aid kit
• Whistle (to signal for help)
• Dust mask (to help filter contaminated air)
• Plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place if necessary
• Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
• Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
• Cell phone with chargers or solar charger
• Shoes for each family member
• Contact lenses with supplies and glasses
Once you have gathered supplies for your basic kit, you may want to consider
• Prescription medications and glasses
• Infant formula and diapers
• Pet food and water
• Cash, traveler's checks and change
• Important documents (insurance, identification, bank information)
and matches in a waterproof portable container
• Sleeping bag/warm blanket and complete change of clothes for each person
• Fire extinguisher
• Household chlorine bleach and a medicine dropper. When diluted,
nine parts water to one-part bleach, can be used as a disinfectant. In
extreme emergencies, you can use it to treat water by using 16 drops per
gallon of water. Do not use scented, color-safe or bleaches with added cleaners.
• Personal and feminine hygiene products
• Mess kits, paper plates, utensils
Most items can be stored in a plastic storage tote in a basement or inside
where easily retrieved. It is also a good idea to keep an emergency kit
in your car.
Being prepared is key to dealing with and recovering from catastrophic
or severe weather. Use last week's weather and Severe Weather Awareness
Week as a reminder to get prepared. Don't be caught without critical
needs to "weather the storm".
-- Collette Culver is the Regional Emergency Preparedness Manager for St.
Mary's Medical Center and can be reached at 816-228-5900.