Are You Ready?

Thomas O'Neill III, Peoria County Board

While Illinois is not included in the region known as "Tornado Alley," the state does get its share of deadly tornadoes this time of year. Indeed, 80 percent of Illinois tornadoes occur between the months of April and June, with a total of 212 deaths and 4,254 injuries since 1950. Tornadoes, damaging winds and other severe weather hazards have prompted the National Weather Service to build a "Weather Ready Nation" in an effort to save lives. With the support of state and local emergency management agencies, including Peoria County's Emergency Management Agency (EMA), the country has become better prepared to protect, mitigate, respond to, and recover from weather-related disasters.

Peoria County's EMA routinely works with local and regional emergency agencies to ensure central Illinois is prepared for any type of weather-related disaster, including tornadoes, flooding, snow events and earthquakes. Beyond weather, however, emergency management agencies prepare for all manners of disaster, whether natural or manmade. In addition to planning for emergencies, activating outdoor warning systems and serving as a conduit for additional resources, Peoria County's EMA plays a large role in building a "Ready Nation" by educating the public of potential hazards and the steps that can be taken prior to disaster to help ensure your family's safety during disaster.

Fortunately, many family emergency preparedness steps are not disaster-specific and can be applied to almost any catastrophe imaginable in our region. Two such steps are building an emergency supply kit and establishing points of contact:

  • Emergency supply kit. Experts recommend families be prepared to survive on their own for at least 72 hours after an emergency, as public safety and government resources may be limited in the immediate aftermath of a large-scale disaster. Supply kits should include nonperishable food, water, a battery-powered radio, flashlight, first aid kit, whistle, medications, extra batteries and other essentials. For a complete list, visit ready.gov.
  • Points of contact. In the event family members are not together when disaster strikes, it is helpful to have both a local relative or friend as well as an out-of-state relative or friend (if the disaster is of such a scale to affect the entire locale) to serve as the point of contact for each family member to report in and check on the whereabouts or status of other family members.

Every region in the country is prone to disaster, with some more likely than others. In central Illinois, tornadoes and severe weather top the list. Peoria County's EMA recommends families identify the most likely hazards to occur and plan accordingly. In the event of a tornado, where will your family take shelter? In the event of fire, how will your family escape? Planning for and practicing these scenarios in advance will go a long way towards ensuring a "Ready Family" and saving the lives of your loved ones should disaster strike that close to home. iBi

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