GREENSBURG — Last week, Governor Mike Pence signed a declaration formally declaring Nov. 17 to 23, Winter Weather Preparedness Week in the State of Indiana.
On Thursday morning, the Daily News spoke with Decatur County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) Director Rob Duckworth about the declaration, which the director wholeheartedly welcomed.
“We get a significant amount of winter weather here in Decatur County,” he said. “In 2009, there was an ice storm that shut down power. We also had some storms with hurricane-force winds in 2009. We had similar events in 2011, 2008 and 2007. So I think it’s a good idea to get everybody thinking about it [winter weather preparedness], especially since we just had our first dusting of snow earlier this week.”
The Daily News obtained a copy of Pence’s declaration, and the document sites winter incidents in 1978, ‘91, ‘95, ‘96, ‘98, ‘99, 2000, ‘03, ‘05, ‘06, ‘07, ‘08, ‘09, ‘11 and ‘12 that required Federal aid.
The declaration goes on to state, “The Indiana Department of Homeland Security (IDHS), American Red Cross, National Weather Service, other state partners, local officials and emergency personnel work to warn, care for and protect Hoosiers affected by the elements, clear the roads and restore any disruption of utility services caused by storms. However, this can often take hours and, in some cases, days.”
Duckworth mentioned previous winter ice storms in Muncie that left people without power for more than a week.
The director also cited a summer survey conducted by IDHS that found more than half of Hoosier households may not be prepared for a widespread emergency. The survey, Duckworth said, found that large numbers of people don’t know what to put in a preparedness kit; many don’t even believe an emergency preparedness kit is necessary.
Asked for his opinion why Hoosiers might not understand the need for a preparedness kit, Duckworth replied that, based on the results of the IDHS survey, “Many don’t think there will be an emergency of such magnitude in their area.”
In that survey, he added, “87 percent of respondents said they’ve never experienced a severe disaster in their area and don’t have the knowledge of what to expect. A lack of personal experience leaves these individuals with a limited knowledge base of what to prepare for. We see many people who aren’t as prepared as they could be, but resources are out there to help them get prepared. Use them.”
The director cited getprepared.in.gov as an important resource to which Hoosiers can turn for information on helping get prepared for winter-weather emergencies.
He was also glad to offer tips for this article about assembling a winter emergency preparedness kit for both home and vehicle.
For starters, he said, drivers should try to keep as close to a full tank of gas in their cars as possible during winter weather.
“You never know when you’re going to go out for a short trip and end up stranded for hours,” he said. “Make sure to keep your cellphone fully charged, too.”
Duckworth further recommended that drivers store blankets and an extra coat in their vehicle during winter weather, as well as food and a quantity of water.
“And don’t leave your coat at home thinking it’s only going to be a short trip,” he added. “That short trip can quickly turn into a very long trip, and that’s usually when we find people in desperate situations.”
He continued, “Out in distant areas of the county or on the interstate, it can take time for us to get to people,” meaning drivers should be prepared for an emergency that might see them stranded in their cars for significant periods of time awaiting emergency services.
In regards to what type food drivers should store, Duckworth recommended granola bars or similar foodstuffs that store easily and can be readily accessible in an emergency. Individuals who take regular medications should also store a quantity of the prescription(s) in their cars, the director recommended.
Duckworth further reminded that a lack of severe weather in the immediate area doesn’t mean severe weather elsewhere won’t cause delays in the shipment of vital medications.
“Regular distribution,” he said, “can be broken down by severe weather elsewhere. Just because we’re not having severe weather here, doesn’t mean we won’t be affected by it somewhere else. Deliveries from further up north in Indiana or from Chicago can be especially problematic. I recommend that people not wait until they’re almost out of medication to refill the prescription.”
Duckworth also recommended the purchase of a small-to-medium-sized backpack in which to store emergency preparedness items for the car.
“You can get a small backpack for between $5 and $10,” he said. “You just need any kind of bag you can store in your car and get to easily.”
And of course, the director added, drivers should ALWAYS keep a flashlight in their cars, regardless of the season or weather conditions.
A flashlight is also a good starting place for a home-based emergency preparedness kit. “You need a flashlight on the road and at home,” Duckworth said.
He recommended that people keep 72 hours’ worth of supplies at home at all time, including non-water and non-perishable food.
“Generally, you should keep one gallon of water per person per day stored for an emergency,” he said.
He further reminded that people should be careful of what source they use for alternative heat in the event of a power outage.
A kerosene-based heat source is a good option, he said, as it produces no carbon monoxide. Running any kind of motorized heat source, however, is generally not recommended, because these emit carbon dioxide.
“The effects can come on unknown, and they can be lethal,” Duckworth said.
The director clarified that he doesn’t necessarily expect people to read this article and rush out to compile a winter-preparedness kit in one trip to the store.
Instead, he hopes readers will “take the opportunity this week to make little attempts at getting prepared. Do a little bit at a time.”
The Decatur County EMA CERT (Community Emergency Response Teams) team, the director added, can show readers “how to be prepared in a five gallon bucket.”
The “five-gallon bucket” list is packaging list encompassing a number of emergency-preparedness items, all of which can be stored in a five-gallon bucket.
“You put a lid on the bucket and everything you need is inside,” the director said. “Just call our office and we’ll have a member of the CERT team contact you for help with a five-gallon bucket list.”
The Decatur County EMA office can be reached at 663-2004.
Contact: Rob Cox 812-663-3111 x7011