Each September, emergency management agencies across the United States observe the month as "Emergency Preparedness Month" to highlight the need for everyone to be prepared for natural and man-made disasters of all kinds.
Gov. Sam Brownback hosted a news conference Friday, Sept. 7, to sign a proclamation designating September as "Emergency Preparedness Month in Kansas." As part of the month-long observance, the Kansas Division of Emergency Management is sponsoring an "Emergency Preparedness Day" Monday, Sept. 10, at the Kansas State Fair in Hutchinson.
"Being prepared for disasters involves simple actions each of us can take to protect ourselves and our families from the devastation that a tornado, wildfire or winter storm can bring," said Brownback. "This year Kansas has experienced each of these situations, along with extreme temperatures and drought conditions," said Brownback.
"We urge Kansans to take time this month to think about what you would do if a disaster struck your neighborhood. It’s up to each of us to do our part to be prepared. The simple actions we take now can save lives."
"Local and state emergency responders do a great job, but they can’t be everywhere at once, so we count on everyone to do their part in preparing for a disaster," said Maj. Gen. (KS) Lee Tafanelli, the adjutant general and director of the Kansas Division of Emergency Management. "We each need a weather-alert radio and an emergency kit for our home and car, as well as a plan that allows us, our family or our business to cope with a disaster until help arrives."
Home emergency kits should include a gallon of water for every person per day, nonperishable foods, flashlights and batteries, a battery-powered radio, a first aid kit, medicines, an alternate heat source, blankets and other necessities to sustain a family for a minimum of three days. Information on building a home emergency kit can be found on line at http://www.ksready.gov , http://www.redcross.org/prepare/location/home-family and at http://www.ready.gov/build-a-kit.
Kansas Division of Emergency Management has developed the Kansas Preparedness Challenge to guide Kansans in preparing for a disaster by completing one preparedness action each month. The challenge offers prizes to those individuals and families who take the suggested actions. For more information on the challenge, go to www.ksready.gov.
During the news conference, State Fire Marshal Doug Jorgensen addressed the effect the current drought is having on the increased incidents of wildfire across the state and how Kansans can take steps to reduce fire risk.
"Kansas Forest Service officials estimate that more than 41,000 acres have burned across the state since March, making it one of the worst years for wildfire on record," said Jorgensen. He also noted that 26 structures have been lost to wildfire so far this year, while none were lost in the previous seven years.
"Many counties across the state have burn bans in place or are not issuing burn permits because of the extreme conditions," said Jorgensen, urging citizens to check for local restrictions or burn ordinances before conducting any outdoor burning. "It’s important to realize how one little spark can lead to thousands of dollars in loss and the loss of homes, businesses and cropland."
Looking ahead to winter, Maj. John Eickhorn, Kansas Highway Patrol, advised Kansans to make sure their car is equipped with an emergency kit and offered tips on safe travel during winter storms.
"Check KDOTs 511 hotline (Dial 5-1-1 from any phone) or Website (www.kandrive.org) before your trip to see roadwork and road conditions to help you plan accordingly," said Eickhorn. "Make sure someone knows where you are going and your route of travel. If you don’t arrive on time and are stranded, that will help law enforcement in the search for your vehicle."
During Preparedness Month, Kansans are reminded that emergency preparedness is not just for the home, but also for the workplace and especially in schools, where on any given day 20 percent or more of Kansans are gathered.
On display at the news conference were examples of several emergency kits, including a home kit, a car kit, and two kits used by the Olathe School system. Dr. Bob Hull, former assistant superintendent of Olathe schools and the director of the Kansas Center for Safe and Prepared Schools, urges every school to have an emergency "go-kit" for administrators and one in each classroom, as well.
"If there is an emergency at school, teachers need to remember that they are the ones who will need to look after their class," said Hull. "The first responders are going to bring help as soon as they can, but that may take some time. Teachers should have the supplies they need to look after their kids if they have to shelter in place until help can arrive."
During the Sept. 10 Kansas Preparedness Day event at the State Fair in Hutchinson, numerous state and local agencies, along with community emergency response organizations, will be providing disaster preparedness and public safety information, as well as displaying emergency response equipment. There will also be drawings for door prizes.
Agencies and organizations participating in the event include the Adjutant General’s Department/Kansas Division of Emergency Management/Kansas National Guard, Kansas Department of Agriculture, Kansas Department of Health and Environment, Kansas Department of Transportation, Kansas Fire Marshall, Kansas Highway Patrol, Reno County Emergency Management, Reno County Sheriff’s Department, Hutchinson Fire Department, Hutchinson Police Department, American Red Cross, Citizen Corps, Community Emergency Response Team, Kansas Search and Rescue Dog Association, National Weather Service and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Sept. 10 is Dillon’s Dollar Day at the Fair; admission is one dollar or free with a Dillon’s card.