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Emmet County is prepared

By Staff | Jul 9, 2008

Editor’s Note: This is the second story in a three-part series on how Emmet County is prepared to handle disaster situations.

In preparing for hazardous weather or situations, it’s good planning to keep the Boy Scout motto in mind-Always Be Prepared.

Terry Reekers, Emmet County Emergency Management Agency coordinator, said his office has stockpiled some items for those times of flood.

“Locally we try to maintain enough emergency response supplies to be on our own for 72 hours. In recent weeks, everyone has seen communities that have had total devastation and that would quickly use up all of your local resources. We maintain about 55,000 to 60,000 sandbags at all times.”

He noted that since the flood of 1993, the City of Estherville has removed several homes and other threats from the flood plain and that has helped the flood mitigation quite a bit.

“We also have back-up communication systems, mobile command trailer, mobile communications tower and back-up power generation if we need it anywhere in the county.”

One specific item has been in hot demand this summer.

“We have something very few counties are fortunate enough to have and that is our own low watt portable AM radio station. It has a 14-minute continuous loop that can be programmed with emergency messages for people who have lost their homes but can have access to a portable radio.

Currently this device is in Cedar Rapids being used to help victims of the flooding find shelter, food, medical care and other local emergency information.

“Before Cedar Rapids, the Emergency AM Radio Station was in Parkersburg and New Hartford.”

The coordinator pointed out there is an agreement with several different organizations such as the American Red Cross, Salvation Army, Iowa Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency for items like clothing, food and water. “They can assist us with immediate needs.”

But in the event of a large natural disaster like a tornado strike, major flooding, etc., it is the media which will play a huge role in getting out emergency messages to the public.

“We will use TV, radio stations, our Emergency Information Radio, and newspapers to get messages out as quickly as possible for shelter, medical needs, lost or missing persons, etc.”

While Reekers’ office will do everything possible to be of assistance, he cautions that everyone should be prepared for such drastic situations. “We encourage everyone to be self-sufficient for the first 72 hours. That means food, water, medical supplies, extra cash, pet food, etc.; to be on your own for up to 72 hours.”

In the event of total devastation like Parkersburg and other communities this year, individual needs will have to be met by outside sources and that’s where Reekers’ job comes in.

“I maintain a resource file of all sorts of different businesses, services and organizations that can help us in time of disaster. I encourage everyone to take a CPR and basic first aid training class. Even having the basic knowledge and training can save a life.”