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When sirens sound, seek cover

By Staff | Jul 10, 2008

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

If a tornado warning should sound, residents need to go to the safest place possible which is below ground level. There is no safest corner of the basement like once thought.

Emmet County Emergency Managing Director Terry Reekers explained when seeking shelter in the basement to not be positioned under a heavy object located on the floor above. “If the house collapses, chances are it will fall on you.” He suggests getting under a work bench, staircase or something that can support debris from above.

Persons who are traveling should:

n Get out of the car and find the lowest place. Cover the head and neck area with your hands.

n Possibly enter a large culvert if flooding is not occurring. Be on the lookout for flash flooding.

“The jury is still out on whether being under an overpass on major highways is the safest place to be. Definitely get out of your vehicle. You have to do what you think is best at the time using your best judgment.”

One constant concern during severe weather is mobile home parks. “Currently there is no law that requires mobile home parks to have shelters for their patrons in the event of severe weather. Iowa Emergency Management and the State of Iowa have introduced legislation the last two sessions requiring all new mobile home parks constructed to also provide a shelter for those living in the mobile home park.”

Both times, the issue was met with very strong lobbying and opposition by those in the manufactured home business and the effort was defeated.

“Locally we have excellent cooperation with Iowa Lakes Community College which is willing to allow the people of Green Acres Mobile Home enter their campus during a weather warning.”

Reekers noted the only problem could potentially occur for those times when the college is closed.

“Both the Estherville Police Department and the Emergency Management Agency have keys,” he explained, with some hesitancy. “The problem is this would take time. There is no guarantee we could get there in time to let people into the college buildings.”

He suggested that mobile trailer residents predetermine alternate shelters with relatives or friends. “They will have a place to go to when the weather looks threatening and stay there until the danger has past.”

A whole different problem is presented for those individuals who enjoy the great outdoors and spend long periods of time camping. “Tents and campers don’t do well in tornadoes. Campers should get into the habit of monitoring weather conditions all of the time. They should be prepared to go the lowest spot at the campground.”

Reekers said low spots may be along the lake or a ravine.

“The best tips for all campers are:

n Monitor the weather.

n Go to a safer place until the storm passes.

n Go to the lowest spot possible.

n Be prepared to help others after the storm passes.

Receiving praises from Reekers were area schools which are required to perform fire and tornado drills annually. “Our schools do an excellent job at preparing for not only severe weather but fires, winter storms, hazardous material releases and terrorism. It is not a requirement but highly recommended that businesses, factories, restaurants and other establishments which deal with the public have a disaster plan in place for any type of hazard.