Category: Business and Organization Preparedness


2016-05-12
Meteorological Spring began March 1st and with it comes a heightened emphasis on severe weather safety and preparation. 2016 has seen an increased number of tornadoes and other severe weather events over the past few years. Is that a predictor of spring weather? One answer is…it only takes one.

It only takes one tornado or severe storm to change lives forever. It only takes one to cause millions of dollars of damage. It only takes one to impact the economy of a community. It only takes one to destroy infrastructure, schools, churches, parks, public buildings, etc.

Photo by Author

Photo by Rick Atterberry

As we remind ourselves of safety precautions, we recognize that being prepared can impact survivability reducing deaths and injuries. Damage to property can be mitigated by employing proper construction techniques.

Many states observe Severe Weather Preparedness Weeks in the spring. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Weather Ready Nation efforts consolidate information on best practices.

Beyond that information, now is a good time to review threats that are specific to a given location. Is the area prone to flooding, especially flash floods? Are outdoor sports venues equipped with lightning detectors? Are evacuation and sheltering policies in place?

FEMA

FEMA

Another important piece of information is local protocols for operation of outdoor warning sirens. In general, these sirens are NOT necessarily intended to be heard inside homes and businesses. Some communities sound an all clear. In others, a second activation of the sirens means the threat is continuing for an additional period of time. Some locations employ sirens for flash flooding, nuclear power plant issues, tsunamis and other threats. Be aware of local policies. Always have an alternate way of receiving severe weather information…the All-Hazards Weather Radio System, warning apps, web-based warning systems.

Personal preparedness is everyone’s responsibility. Review shelter areas at home and at work. Create appropriate “Go Kits” for each location plus vehicles. Devise a communications plan to aid in reunification of families and co-workers. Be aware of those in the neighborhood or workplace with special needs who may need your assistance. And, always, be extra vigilant when severe weather is a possibility. A community can only be as prepared as its residents.

Being Prepared is Part of Who You Are

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Preparedness Begins at Home


Searching for new and updated resources? Here are a few that have recently come to our attention.

Readiness and Emergency Management in Schools

The U.S. Department of Education offers technical assistance for Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools (REMS). The site offers resources for kindergarten through 12th grade schools and districts, and for institutions of higher education. You will find interactive templates for emergency operations plans, checklists, drills, virtual trainings, and much more.

Evacuation Plans for Veterinarians 

Steve Pearson, DVM, in Veterinary Practice News describes why and how veterinarians should write an emergency action plan for a natural disaster. Very practical.

Winter Survival Kit

Now is the time to download NDSU Extension’s Winter Survival Kit. The app will help you find your current location, call 911, notify friends and family, calculate how long you can run your engine to keep warm and stay safe from carbon monoxide poisoning. The free app is available on Google Play and in the iTunes App Store.

The El Niño Effect

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has regional impact fact sheets on the current El Niño effect and the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) provides resources needed to be ready for weather that can be associated with the event. Be prepared for anything from floods and droughts to land slides and other severe weather this winter.


Julyderecho

July 13, 2015 derecho radar image from NOAA.

Early this week, on July 13, a possible derecho, or at least what the National Weather Service is currently calling “a Derecho-like event,” raced across the middle of the country. It began in Minnesota and swept mostly southward through Wisconsin, Illinois, parts of Indiana and into Kentucky.

The Weather Service describes a derecho as “a widespread, long-lived storm. Derechos are associated with bands of rapidly moving showers or thunderstorms variously known as bow echoes, squall lines or quasi-linear convective systems.”

The “bow echo” refers to the characteristic appearance of a linear storm on weather radar when that storm bows out due to high wind. Storms represented by bow echoes are not always derechos unless they last for a long time which is rarely the case. In fact, large derechos are relatively unusual. Generally there are only one or two a year in most of the country.

The Weather Service has an extensive derecho page.

Weather Underground

Weather Underground

Derechos can be extremely damaging. By definition a derecho must travel 240 miles and include wind gusts of at least 58mph along much of its length and several gusts of over 75mph. Many are much stronger. A derecho that crossed Illinois from northwest to southeast in the late 1990’s included winds measured at over 100mph at the Clinton nuclear power plant and caused extensive damage to a marina at the associated cooling lake.

Effects can be long lasting. On July 4th and 5th in 1999 a derecho crossed the Boundary Waters Canoe area in northern Minnesota/southern Ontario. It devastated a forest there. Wildfires in more recent years have been fueled by the debris from that storm.

Because of their length and the intensity of the straight line winds, derechos can be an extremely costly event. Casualties are rare, but do occur, usually caused by falling trees or other debris and occasionally by watercraft caught by the rapidly moving storms.


62 years ago this month, April 9, 1953, about 3 miles from where I am sitting, a tornado was caught by radar for the first time. Scientists and electrical engineers at the Illinois State Water Survey at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign had modified a former WWII airborne radar for use in estimating amounts of precipitation falling from storms.

Don Staggs, an electrical engineer, was preparing the radar for later field tests. He started to notice what we now call “hook echo” returns in the scans of the storm. As afternoon turned to evening, a strong thunderstorm developed just north of Champaign, about ten miles from the radar site at the university-owned Willard Airport. The storm image included a pronounced hook on the bottom rear flank much as we see hook echoes on modern Doppler radar.

first radar image of a tornado

Illinois State Water Survey via The News Gazette

Still photos and a 16mm film of the images on the scope captured that moment. A team of meteorologists and technicians were able to study the image capture. Later, Dr. Ted Fujita the creator of the tornado strength measurement scale that bears his name, sketched over 200 of the frames of the film in his own hand. All of this can be seen in a terrific article from Colorado State University.  Note especially the photos of the tornado and the well-developed wall cloud.

We now know that the radar captured the early stages of an F3 tornado that eventually traveled about 160 miles and dissipated near Albany, IN. There were two fatalities and about $4-million in property damage in Illinois. The path of the storm took it across mostly rural areas.

Next week, we’ll discuss current use of radar and what may be the next generation of this important forecast tool.


Michelle Bufkin, AU Agriculture Communications Student/EDEN Community of Practice Social Media Assistant, recently interviewed EDEN delegate Becky Koch who will be presenting at the EDEN Annual Meeting.

1. How did you first get involved with EDEN?

Becky Koch March 2011After the 1993 Mississippi and Missouri River floods, Iowa, Missouri, and Illinois got a grant from what is now the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) to study what they and other states could learn from the flood experience. They wanted to study how we could learn from each other, so each state did not have to start from scratch after a disaster like this. They sent letters to every extension director about a discussion meeting in Kansas City, asking each North Central Region state to send a representative. The NDSU Extension Service interim director came to me with this letter, stating that they needed communications people at this meeting and asked if I wanted to go. My first response,was, “disasters? That has nothing to with what I do.” But it was a free trip home for me, so I went to the meeting. Little did I know how much that spoof of an experience would impact my career and my life. I had no idea how important those connections and lessons learned would be beneficial three years down the road when North Dakota flooded. There was not an EDEN website in ‘97 when we flooded, so I emailed people every day for weeks with questions. I realized how important that network of states was when we experienced this similar disaster and I could turn to them.

2. In your opinion what is the most important part of preparing a business for a disaster?
One of the most important steps is having a communications plan. I’m responsible for 25 people in my department. I have not done everything I could for my “business” but we have a communications plan. Everybody knows how to learn if the university is going to be closed. We have talked about each of us taking individual responsibility to know what’s going on because I won’t have time to call everyone or the phones might be down. We also talk about being prepared at home. The university does fire drills, but they had never done a tornado drill, so we did a tornado drill to practice sheltering in place in addition to evacuating. Practicing where to go is so very important. A communications plan with staff and drills to practice the basics are necessary for any business to prepare for a disaster.

3. Can you tell us a little about your EDEN meeting material?
NDSU received a NIFA Smith-Lever Special Needs grant to develop an app for both Android and Apple smartphones and tablets to help businesses develop their disaster preparedness plans. The first question we always get is, “why do you need that as an app? All that information is online.” The nice thing about the app is that the business owner/manager can walk around the office, take pictures of equipment, write in what piece of equipment it is and when it was bought, and take inventory for a disaster. The app will make it easier, which will hopefully motivate small businesses to actually develop a plan. At the EDEN meeting, we will ask for volunteers to test the app, along with students in NDSU’s Emergency Management major.

4. Can you tell us about your role in handling disasters in North Dakota?
The disaster we get the most in North Dakota is flooding. We get blizzards, but the only thing you can do for those is prepare and shelter in place. We promote blizzard preparedness ,such as having a winter survival kit in your car, downloading our Winter Survival Kit app, keeping an emergency kit at home. It is easier to sell preparedness up here, because people have been stuck at home during a blizzard, so they take it more seriously. As a communicator, I send out news releases and notifications to our own staff. I also work very closely with Ken Hellevang to review what flood resources are online, and what else we need to post. We figure out what to send to the staff and public to get the word out about flooding that is occurring and how to be prepared and how to recover. I also work very closely with the subject matter experts, no matter the disaster, to see if other states have resources through EDEN or to help them create resources to give out to our staff or the public.

5. What piece of advice would you give to our delegates?
Utilize the network. I was at the meeting where we came up with the name Extension Disaster Education Network, and “network” truly is the perfect word. It is so important for us to work together, to ask questions of each other, to share resources, and to make sure we are telling the same story across state lines. Utilize the network: do not be afraid to just send out an email if you need information. Do not just wait for information to come to you, but reach out to others who might provide information and resources pertinent to your state and situation. Also utilize the courses online. You do not have to be an expert on something to teach it. Those courses provide the background and information you need to help you teach others about those topics.


Michelle Bufkin, AU Agriculture Communications Student/EDEN Community of Practice Social Media Assistant, recently interviewed EDEN delegate Jamie Rathbun, who will have a breakout session at the EDEN Annual Meeting.

1. How did you first get involved with EDEN?portraitweb

Kansas State Research & Extension’s Point of Contact (POC), Mary Lou Peter, knew that I had been involved in emergency preparedness efforts, so she recruited me to be a delegate. I receive EDEN emails and soak in and save much of the information. I keep note of the resources so that if Kansas ever needs it we will have resources or know who will be the best contact in certain situations. Also, if a question arises and Kansas has resources related to that topic I will respond with those.

2. Kansas has experienced several disasters in the past few years. What has been your role in helping people recover?

I serve as an extension agent two counties that have been lucky and haven’t experienced larger natural disasters. I have done timely news releases before tornado season starts, so that people know what to put in emergency kits. When a community disaster happens, I make sure that we get the message of preparedness out. We had a large downtown fire a couple years ago, so I wrote newspaper articles, about updating inventory and insurance policies, and other preparedness tips.

3. Without giving away your presentation for the 2014 EDEN Annual Meeting, can you tell us about Prepare Kansas?

Some coworkers and I wrote a lesson for Kansas titled Get Financially Prepared: Take Steps Ahead of Disaster. The lesson focuses on having an inventory, making sure insurance is up-to-date, and having a “grab and go kit” prepared. As it was taught across the state, we realized that we can talk to people about these steps, but they might not be motivated to inventory their home. For that motivation, we developed Prepare Kansas, to challenge our constituents across the state through the month of September. Each week during the month, they will have two challenges to complete that will help increase preparedness.

At the EDEN Annual Meeting, we are planning on outlining how we started, where we are headed, and how we plan to keep it fresh. We will also provide information in case anyone wants to implement something similar in their own states.

4. Do you have a favorite resource on financial disaster recovery?

The K-State Research & Extension lesson that I co-wrote, Get Financially Prepared. I also like to use a publication from University of Missouri Extension, Family Disaster Plan. I know it helped me in preparing a “grab and go kit” for my own home.

5. What is your financial advice to people who have never experienced a disaster?

The most important thing is to be organized. It is ideal to have the organization in place ahead of a disaster, for example having a completed home inventory. Organization is important after a disaster as well. Having a system to keep receipts of anything paid or purchased and of financial assistance a person receives to aid in the cleanup process is necessary. These documents are important for insurance and tax purposes after a disaster. Being organized is the goal of the Prepare Kansas challenge.


A reminder of the  Ag in Uncertain Times webinar Friday December 7, 2012, 12:00 Eastern/11:00 Central/10:00 Mountain/9:00 Pacific  — Tax and Financial Risks Due to Drought and Disaster

The webinar is part of a series by the North Central Risk Management Education Center and co-hosted by the Agriculture and Applied  Economics Section (Extension Section)  and is being hosted by Montana State University Technology at this link – http://msuextensionconnect.org/aginuncertaintimes

 

The third webinar is set for January 22, 2013 and will address strategies for the coming production year with uncertain institutional, production, and market risks.

Kim Cassel         Dec 7 AgInUncertainTimes_FLYER


Texts, Texts, and More Texts

Did you know that in times of a disaster that you may have better luck sending a text message than making a phone call. Text messages can often get around network disruptions when a phone call might not be able to get through.

Photo courtesy of Small_Realm on Flickr.

To help prepare your family you should teach every family member how to text, and just as importantly, who to text. Creating an emergency contact list for each family member to carry with them is very important. Be sure every member of your family knows the phone number and has a cell phone, coins or a prepaid phone card to call the emergency contact. If you have a cell phone, program that person(s) as “ICE” (In Case of Emergency) in your phone. If you are in an accident, emergency personnel will often check your ICE listings in order to get a hold of someone you know. Make sure to tell your family and friends that you’ve listed them as emergency contacts.

Did you know you can also help your family become prepared for disasters by subscribing to receive text updates from FEMA and your local office of Emergency Management? For FEMA updates and preparedness tips text “PREPARE” to 43362 (4FEMA).

Another way to get in contact with your family following a disaster could be through the use of social media like Facebook or Twitter. When the earthquake hit the east coast of the United States on August 23, 2011, Twitter was flooded with tweets mentioning the word “earthquake.” In fact, Facebook representatives stated that the word “earthquake” appeared in over 3 million status updates within 4 minutes of the 5.9 magnitude quake hitting.

So what is your family’s plan to get in contact with each other following a disaster?


The latest winter storm warnings and watches led me to thinking about business continuity. Do our clients/audiences have continuity plans at their places of work and emergency plans for their families? What about us? Do our Extension offices have current emergency operations and continuity plans?

Some EDEN member institutions have implemented continuity plans at both the state and county level. If yours is not one of them, consider this. Ohio Point of Contact Dee Jepsen , Aletha Reshan and Kathy Henwood produced a comprehensive Business Continuity Planning curriculum in 2009. It was “designed to enhance the emergency preparedness needs of Cooperative Extension Services (CES) and their clientele.”  The curriculum, according to the authors, can be utilized as a framework for developing CES continuity plans.

A second valuable resource is the Ready Business course. This course is designed for Extension educators and others to teach small- and medium-sized business owners and managers how to prepare for disasters. At the end of the training, participants walk away knowing their disaster risks and a beginning disaster plan tailored to their situations. Contact Rick Atterberry or Becky Koch if you have questions about the course.

Winter storms can interrupt our work, but we can make sure the return is a smooth one. Up-to-date continuity plans facilitate that return. Does your office have a plan in place? 

Read the IDISASTER 2.0 January 10 blog post, for ideas on incorporating social media into your plan.

Regards, Virginia Morgan, EDEN Chair