EMA, Red Cross offer free emergency preparedness seriesWritten by Kristen Criswell | | firstname.lastname@example.org
What would you do if your house lost power for multiple days? Do you have plan should a fire gut your home?
A new program by the Lucas County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) and the American Red Cross of Greater Toledo is designed to educate the public and help prepare individuals and families for potential emergencies in Northwest Ohio.
Ready U, a 10-session yearlong series, will help people “make a plan; get a kit; be informed.”
“Ideally, we hope people are more prepared and they understand there are simple things you can do to make yourself safer,” said Ken Robinson, director of programs and services at the Red Cross. “By doing this, if we have another disaster, and we will, people are more ready and recover a little more quickly from it once it happens. Anything you do in the front end mitigates the level of damage on the back end.”
Ready U is based on a program out of Shelby County — Preparedness University or Prep U.
This past spring, Matt Heyrman, director of the Lucas County EMA, heard a presentation about Prep U at an Ohio EMA directors conference and decided to bring it back to Lucas County.
“My biggest pet peeve with EMA so far is it’s really hard to reach out to the community and get them excited about citizens’ preparedness,” said Heyrman, who started as director in April. “I wanted to have a more dynamic, progressive way of getting out information. Once I heard about [Prep U], we put our own spin on it and moved forward.”
Heyrman said he hopes the series of programs reaches a population that doesn’t normally hear the message of emergency preparedness, including lower-income households and the younger adult population of 20 to 40 year olds, he said.
Ready U’s first event will serve as a kickoff to the whole series, Heyrman said.
“We’re calling it ‘The Unthinkable.’ It lays out the realistic hazards that are here. It’ll also say here are the basic steps we want you to take — get a kit; make a plan; be informed,” he said.
Emergencies or disasters that are most likely to affect Lucas County residents are severe weather and hazardous material incidents.
“If the entire county loses electricity, your kids are at school, you’re at home, cell phones are down, how are you going to meet up? Do you have a common place?” Heyrman said.
Robinson said there are simple steps that individuals can take to make themselves more prepared for emergencies.
To prevent damage to memorabilia stored in a basement during a flood, make sure boxes are off the ground and on high shelves, he said. During power outages, individuals and families need to make sure they have food they can cook without a microwave or stove, Robinson said.
“Almost everything is addressable with some basic preparedness steps. The idea of the presentations is to let folks know based on what we’re talking about, these are the basic preparedness things that you can do as a family or individual to help protect life and property and get out of a disaster faster,” Robinson said.
The first presentation will be led by Bill Spencer of 13abc. Representatives from the Red Cross and Lucas County EMA will also be available to answer specific questions.
The program is scheduled for Sept. 27 at 7 p.m. and will last an hour. It will take place at Maumee Fire Station No.1, 220 Illinois Ave.
Sessions will rotate from location to location to reach as many Lucas County residents as possible.
Each presentation is independent and individuals can take away valuable information from them all, according to Robinson and Heyrman both.
Other topics will include fire safety and prevention, cold emergencies, 72-hour survival plans, volunteering and victory gardens.
“We’ll talk about the different types of cold weather and what are things you can do. For example, you’re a parent and your kid has been outside because it’s snowing and they come in and they’re really in a funk. What are the signals of cold-related emergencies? What are the signals for hypothermia or frostbite?” Robinson said.
Each session will feature different presenters, experts and formats depending on the topic.
For the victory garden session outside experts, such as the Maumee Growers and Toledo GROWs will come in, Robinson said. For the session focusing on volunteering during a disaster, representatives from area organizations such, as United Way and The Salvation Army will present.
Ready U is open to the public and those in neighboring counties are also invited to attend.
“Our message is a national initiative, no one program is exclusive to Lucas County,” Heyrman said.
Downloadable materials will be available prior to all events on the Ready U website. Information on how to build an emergency kit, as well as figuring out what an emergency kit needs based on family size is also available. All programs will be shot and streamed by 13abc. Videos will be available on the Ready U website following each presentation.
Marc Burdiss, EMA director of Shelby County, is a big fan of the civil defense approach to preparedness where it is the individual’s responsibility to prepare for an emergency, he said.
“Individual preparedness is critical because there’s an unrealistic expectation you can get immediate assistance in an emergency,” he said.
“I was looking at the ever-dwindling county budget and thought if we could better prepare individuals, it would lessen the impact of a minor or medium county emergency,” Burdiss said.
Burdiss and the county’s EMA developed Prep U, which ran once a month last year. The program wasn’t designed to scare anyone, but to give individuals a peace of mind.
“If you’ve thought about things, you can sleep easier,” he said. “They know if we have another wind storm that knocks out the power in the county, it’ll be OK. It will just be an inconvenience, not devastation.”
The program was successful in Shelby County, Burdiss said. Despite the program being on a Wednesday evening, church night, each event had at least 40 to 50 individuals.
In addition, individuals told Burdiss they were there to take information back to their church and people were picking up information from meetings at the library, Burdiss said.
Shelby County will continue its Prep U every other year, Burdiss said.
After presenting his program at the EMA directors conference, Burdiss received calls from EMAs around the state about the program, but Lucas County is the only one to jump right in, he said.
Heyrman and Robinson hope to continue Ready U after this year’s series, but aren’t sure what form the program will take.
“Our hope is to continue the program, but we’ve never done anything like this. Maybe next year it will be bigger and better — more sponsorship and more events, Heyrman said. “We want to see how it goes this year before we expand.”
Funding for Ready U comes from a combination of grant money from the Department of Homeland Security to the Lucas County EMA and donations by The Andersons, Heyrman said.
For more about Ready U programs and information on how to prepare for an emergency, visit ready-u.com.
Toledo Free Press is a media sponsor for the Ready U program.