Ready for disaster

     This Christmas we were unexpectedly detained for an extra day when Mother Nature dumped 12-plus inches of snow in northern Wisconsin. We found ourselves in a log cabin, five miles from Michigan's Upper Peninsula and 30 miles from the nearest grocery store, with five kids in the house and enough groceries for two people. My sister and I had to venture out in the blizzard to pick up food; not the safest plan, but one that would keep us fed. Disaster preparedness/emergency planning never crossed our minds — even when we heard predictions of snowfalls of up to 20 inches.

     No one plans to be struck by a natural disaster or other emergency, but everyone should be prepared. I recently asked Deputy Coordinator Glen Karpovich of the Ramsey, New Jersey, Office of Emergency Management what police departments should be doing in terms of emergency planning. Here is what this Certified Emergency Manager (CEM) had to say:

  • Do not conduct emergency planning in a vacuum. Coordinate with your fire department, public works/highway departments and other organizations who will be part of any first response efforts.
  • Coordinate with the local Red Cross office, which sets up emergency shelters during a disaster that law enforcement will need to secure.
  • Update and verify department recall rosters. In short, know who you're going to call in and how you'll reach them during an emergency.
  • Keep vehicle fuel depot storage tanks filled, and fill all police vehicles.
  • Check and fill all emergency generators.
  • Prioritize all calls for service. Only respond to serious calls, if weather conditions permit.
  • Finally, document all costs for possible financial recovery after the "storm."

     As the new year begins, take the time to look at your emergency plans. Make emergency planning/disaster preparedness one of your New Year's resolutions.