Emergency coordinator tells businesses how to be prepared

Saturday, October 4, 2003

Thirty-five Jackson business owners found out the hard way what a tornado can do to business on May 6.

On Friday morning, Cape Girardeau's business community found out the easy way -- sitting around tables, sipping coffee at the Cape Girardeau Chamber of Commerce First Friday Coffee event at the Show Me Center.

Mark Winkler, the local State Emergency Management Agency disaster preparedness coordinator, gave the chamber a few points on how to prepare for a disaster.

He suggested that businesses make sure they have enough insurance and come up with a disaster plan.

Winkler said that some businesses got back on their feet quickly, while others are still struggling in Jackson.

"Ceramo is not doing well," he said.

Winkler said some of their production was down for 12 weeks and that 40-plus employees were affected at the pottery manufacturer. He said business owners should think about how they might compensate employees if they had to be laid off after a disaster.

In all, 26 businesses received minor to moderate damage in the storm. Nine other businesses were destroyed.

Cape Girardeau County received $28,310 in housing assistance by the Federal Emergency Management Agency so people had a place to stay if their homes were destroyed, Winkler said. FEMA supplied another $90,445 for other items like clothing. About $670,000 was awarded to fix public roads and bridges, Winkler added, but no statistics were available from the Small Business Administration, which handles emergency funds for businesses.

"I think there is a gap in helping businesses," Winkler said. "So preparedness is the key. The more you prepare, the better you can handle any disaster that comes your way."

Cape Girardeau Mayor Jay Knudtson asked Winkler how well warning sirens work.

Winkler said they work well for anyone outdoors or anyone indoors near the sirens. But for a warning system to be completely effective, there needs to be additional warnings inside public buildings.

bmiller@semissourian.com

243-6635

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