City of Bolivar Emergency Management Director Brent Watkins repeats a simple motto every day — “Plan today to prepare for tomorrow.”
With spring storm season quickly approaching, it’s the perfect time to plan ahead for potential severe weather and other natural disasters.
It’s always good to think about where to go and how to react when storm sirens sound or emergency alerts come through the phone or television.
“People need to think through their emergency sheltering plan,” Watkins said. “We need to ask ourselves, “Where would I take shelter if a tornado was heading my way right now?”
He said the best shelters are in basements or an interior room on the lowest floor of the building. It’s important to stay away from windows and exterior doors.
While spring makes people think of tornadoes, thunderstorms, lightning and hail, it’s wise to plan for any number of possibilities, Watkins said.
"We need to be ready for any disaster that might strike, whether it's flooding or hurricanes, winter storms or blizzards," Watkins said. "It's really having a basic plan of preparedness on what to do when our normal lives are disrupted."
He said people should take time to stockpile essential items, and making plans for different scenarios when things are normal and calm can help people get through times when essential services, like power and water, aren’t available.
"Making a plan gives us something to fall back on," he said. "It's like rehearsing for a play. Performers don't figure out what they're doing in the middle of a show. They practice ahead of time to prepare and plan, so on opening night, they have a plan in place. The director and the actors just implement the plan."
Watkins said certain actions can help area residents prepare efficiently for many different events, because most disasters have some of the same components.
The Federal Emergency Management Association directs people to have a plan for the first 72 hours, Watkins said.
First, it’s important to stock essential items, like food and water.
"Have enough water, medications and basic non-perishable food for 72 hours,” Watkins said. “It's also important to have batteries and a battery-powered or solar radio so you can get information."
Each person in a household needs one gallon of water per day.
Watkins also said it’s important to understand each home's heating and cooling system and make alternate plans accordingly. Homeowners should consider installing carbon monoxide detectors if they plan to use alternate heat sources.
People also need to make arrangements for reaching family members and loved ones if communication systems are down, Watkins said. Some apps allow for people to check in with their families when phone lines are down.
"The worst thing is not knowing," he said. "If we know our family is safe, it gives peace in a chaotic situation."
To help facilitate communication during an emergency, the City of Bolivar has the Rave Alert Smart911 System — an emergency alert system capable of reaching people via multiple platforms for various alerts.
While Rave isn't meant to replace other traditional notification methods, like storm sirens and weather radios, Watkins said it’s one more tool to alert citizens of emergency situations.
Anyone who lives, works, visits or has loved ones in Bolivar can sign up for the system online at https://getrave.com/login/bolivar. People can also download the Smart911 app on their smart phones.
Short-term preparedness is up to individuals, Watkins said, but long-term planning is up to city and county leaders.
"The long-term plans, that's what we're here for," he said. "We are here to help manage the long-term needs and restore us back to our daily lives."
For more information about planning for emergency situations, visit ready.gov online.
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