Ready for disaster

Thursday, December 14, 2006

The recent icy and snowy storm that cut a wide swath across much of Missouri left thousands of homes, businesses, schools and factories without electricity. Serious questions have been raised by customers and Missouri Public Service Commission members about what could have prevented some of the loss of power and what could have been done to speed up repairs.

Another issue is how prepared homeowners, business owners, school officials and factory manager are when such storms hit. For the most part, attention to such matters usually occurs when there is a problem at hand. When electric service is restored, much of the concern goes away.

Being prepared is at the heart of what emergency preparedness and American Red Cross officials deal with all the time. Being ready to provide assistance on short notice is the hallmark of any well-prepared operation. This was certainly evident as the Red Cross opened a shelter at Farmington, Mo. after the recent storm.

There are quite a few things individuals can do to help prepare themselves for future emergencies.

One is to purchase a generator that can provide limited electricity to keep essential things running, like the furnace, refrigerator and some lights. Even though generators can be expensive, more and more of them are being sold in this area. There are safety issues involved with the proper operation of a generator, and anyone who has one or is buying one should be thoroughly checked out on safe operation.

This area also has a good number of homes with fireplaces and wood-burning stoves. Again, safety is an issue. Many chimneys, for example, are in need of repair. Along with having a fireplace or stove for backup heat, homeowners should check to make sure their chimneys are ready for emergency use.

Officials suggest that you should have a plan for what you would do or where you would go if you lost power for several days.

For many folks, a shelter run by the Red Cross would be a logical place to go. Because of demands for food during the recent storm, the local Red Cross chapter needs donations to restock emergency food supplies. Checks made out to the American Red Cross/Southeast Missouri Chapter may be sent to 2430 Myra Drive, Cape Girardeau, Mo. 63703.

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