While Dodge City was fortunately far from the destruction of Hurricane Sandy, a storm of its size can serve as a reminder that none of us are immune to Mother Nature.
And even though the land-locked state of Kansas need not worry about hurricane damage, being prepared for unexpected Midwest weather could play a key role in recovering, and even surviving, a natural disaster.
That's where Ford County Emergency Management comes in.
According to the Ford County website, Ford County Emergency Management emphasizes planning, preparing, and coordinating local governments' efforts in dealing with all types of emergencies and hazards, natural or man-made, or homeland security, which might affect citizens of Ford County.
“Emergency Management prepares for what we hope never happens and provides structure and coordination when it does,” the site reads.
Prepare a winter storm plan
The organization's first suggestion for the incoming season is to prepare a winter storm plan and lists the following tips:
- Have extra blankets on hand.
- Ensure that each member of your household has a warm coat, gloves or mittens, hat, and water-resistant boots.
- Assemble a disaster supplies kit containing a first aid kit and essential medications; battery-powered NOM Weather Radio and portable radio; flashlight and extra batteries; canned food and non-electric can opener; and bottled water.
- Have your car winterized before winter storm season.
- Assemble a disaster supplies kit for your car.
Know the difference between storm watches, warnings
Local radio and TV stations are a good resource to have when winter weather is on its way. TV stations that will cover local weather in the Ford County area are KWCH (channel 6), KUPK (channel 13), and KSNG (channel 11). There are three radio stations to turn to for local weather information- KAHE 95.5- K95 FM, Big Dog Country 98.1-Q97 FM, and 96.3 The Marshal.
But when listening to storm forecasts, it's important to know what the predictions mean. A winter storm watch means a winter storm is possible in the area. A winter storm warning means a winter storm is headed for the area. A blizzard warning means strong winds, blinding wind-driven snow, and dangerous wind chill are expected.
When a winter storm watch is issued Ford County Emergency Management advises residents to be alert to changing weather conditions and avoid unnecessary travel.
When a winter storm warning is issued it is best to stay indoors during the storm.
“If you must go outside, several layers of lightweight clothing will keep you warmer than a single heavy coat,” the organization suggested. “Gloves and a hat will prevent loss of body heat. Cover your mouth to protect your lungs.”
Page 2 of 2 - Tips for stranded drivers
Residents should avoid traveling by car in a storm, but if the drive is unavoidable, remember to have emergency supplies in the trunk and keep the car's gas tank full for emergency use and to keep the fuel line from freezing. It is also advisable to let someone know your destination, your route, and when you expect to arrive. If your car gets stuck along the way, help can be sent along your predetermined route.
If you do get stuck, stay with your car. Do not try to walk to safety. If possible, tie a brightly colored cloth to the antenna for rescuers to see.
Ford County Emergency Management suggests starting the car and using the heater for only 10 minutes every hour. Remember to keep the exhaust pipe clear so fumes won't back up into the car.
Other tips from emergency management include:
- Leaving the overhead light on when the engine is running so that your vehicle can be seen.
- As you sit, keep moving your arms and legs to keep blood circulating and to stay warm.
- Keep one window away from the blowing wind slightly open to let in air.
Cold weather hazards
The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) urges Kansans to be prepared to check on family and neighbors who are especially at risk from cold weather hazards, including falls. According to KDHE, during the 2010-2011 winter, there were 2,012 fall-related hospital discharges (HD), making up half of all injury HD during that time period (52.1%).
Almost half (46.9%) of these fall HD occurred among those 80 years and older and 65.5 percent occurred among females. Kansans can help protect their loved ones from falls by removing snow and ice from sidewalks, laying sand and helping elderly friends and neighbors, the KDHE reports.
With preparation beforehand, at least some recovery steps can go into auto-pilot in a situation that could be overwhelming. For more tips from Ford County Emergency Management about other possible crisis situations, visit www.fordcounty.net and click on the emergency management logo.