In a weather crisis, you can be the first responder – be prepared, city experts urge

Evanston Fire Division Chief Kimberly Kull and several city and out-of-town government colleagues presented extensive information during an April 21 session to help residents prepare for weather hazards seasonal changes and to combat the effects of climate change.

About 40 people attended the meeting, which was held at the Evanston Public Library and virtually on Zoom. The presentation on spring weather hazards was the first of five emergency preparedness sessions scheduled through January 2023.

The first point made by Kull was that the evidence for climate change is irrefutable. She cited a NASA report that described the problem as “irreversible” and said it will “get worse in coming decades” due to man-made carbon emissions trapping heat in the Earth’s atmosphere.

Climate change is affecting the weather in many ways, including the wildfires that have ravaged swaths of California, severe drought conditions, warming oceans, shrinking ice caps, retreating glaciers and the sea ​​level rise. In this part of the Midwest, Kull said, weather changes caused by warming oceans are leading to more storms and rains, more lakeside flooding and more urban flooding. .

Another hazard to be prepared for in the Midwest is increased wind events such as microbursts, tornadoes, and derechos (defined by a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration website as “fast-moving bands of thunderstorms with high winds”). Kull said that while Midwestern tornado season is generally considered to be March through August, every month of the year has recorded tornado activity. Most tornadoes strike between 3 p.m. and 9 p.m., prime time for those at school or traveling to and from the office.

Kull assured the group that Evanston has a 24-hour police and fire/EMT presence who are available to respond quickly in the event of a disaster, and nearby communities would most likely be able to send in reinforcements. within the hour.

But, she added, “the reality is that the first responders will not be the people who have been trained every day to respond to people in the community.”

Ordinary people going about their business who suddenly find themselves in an emergency are the community’s first line of defense, Kull said. “And that’s really why we’re here…to be able to make sure that first responders, real first responders in the community, can respond to protect themselves. To protect their families, and by extension their community.

Many of the safety reminders shared at the meeting sound like common sense, but they bear repeating:

  • During thunderstorms, stay indoors. Lightning is the #1 killer during severe storms. Lightning can also strike before rain falls.
  • Seek shelter in a sturdy building and stay there for at least 30 minutes until a thunderstorm passes. Stay away from windows and keep doors closed. Avoid approaching any electrical equipment.
  • Pick up an inexpensive battery-operated NOAA radio and tune in to hear the latest updates or listen to the weather channel. Above all, heed the warnings of professionals. A tornado “caution” means there may be a possibility, but a tornado “warning” means get to a safe place immediately. Don’t procrastinate – take your family, move into a low-story space with no windows, and wait until the danger is over.
  • Don’t walk or drive in flood waters: humans can be swept away in 6 inches of water, cars in as little as 12 inches. Floodwaters may contain sewage, chemicals, or hidden electrical wires, all of which can cause injury or death. Do not allow children to “play” in flood waters.
  • Plan your escape route with your family. Is there a relative or friend you could meet and stay with for a few days if you had to evacuate your home? If you can’t escape, are you prepared to shelter in place for several days?
  • Keep emergency supplies of food, water and other essentials in your car. Make sure your tank is full so if the roads are passable you can go.

Kull and Mario Tristan, civil fire planning reviewer for the DTS, discussed how to put together an emergency kit to use in the event of a power outage for a few days or maybe a few weeks.

Tristan suggested including canned or freeze-dried food, toilet paper, disinfectant gels or wipes, plenty of water, an emergency first aid kit, a flashlight with extra batteries, a decontamination water, prescription medication, an extra pair of glasses if you wear prescription lenses, and any other items needed for your family. Pets, babies, people with cognitive or mobility issues likely need special support.

Ike Ogbo, director of Evanston’s health and social services department, spoke about the resources available to help the community in the event of a disaster. “We have a public health division responsible for COVID response, vaccinations, inspections and rehabilitation,” Ogbo said. “We have a community services division responsible for our youth and seniors services. And we have a social services division in the department that is responsible for providing assistance and services to people who are homeless.

Assistance available through government programs and funding includes temporary housing, food, basic needs, temporary transportation, and mortgage assistance. Those interested should apply, but there are resources. There’s also Community Relief, a program created in 2020 exclusively for undocumented residents.

Here are some other actions recommended by the experts at Thursday’s meeting:

  • Register online for EvanstonAlerts, the emergency notification system. If you need help registering, call 311.
  • Learn basic first aid. The American Red Cross offers a variety of courses and many are available online.
  • Volunteer with the Medical Reserve Corps. Training is provided. The group welcomes medical and non-medical professionals who have an interest in serving in public health.
  • Don’t forget that the Evanston Public Library has resources to learn more about emergency preparedness. The library is also open to the public to cool off or warm up, and anyone 16 and older can borrow a portable Wi-Fi hotspot.
  • Visit Ready.gov, a government-sponsored website, for a variety of free, downloadable disaster preparedness information.

Although preparing for the unknown can seem overwhelming, experts advised picking an easy task or project and doing a little of it each day. Sign up for EvanstonAlerts, for example, or stock up on three days worth of emergency supplies.

The vagaries of summer seminar is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on May 12 at the EPL Main Library and in Spanish at 6:30 p.m. on May 19 (in Spanish: 6:30 p.m. on May 19) at the Robert Crown branch library.

The Fall Hazard Seminar is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on August 18 at the Main Library, followed by the Winter Hazard Seminar at 6:30 p.m. on October 13, also at the Main Library. a seminar on financial preparation is scheduled for January 12, 2023 at EPL.

The seminars will be recorded and available on EPL’s YouTube channel.

About Ren Valdez

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