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Better safe than sorry; preparing for a state of emergency in Elsberry

Posted on Wednesday, May 15, 2013 at 9:42 am

Over the last few weeks one of the biggest stories to hit the scene was that of a fertilizer plant that took several lives after a massive explosion in Texas. Many have since wondered, what was their emergency evacuation plan? Did they have an emergency evacuation plan? And how important is an emergency evacuation plan?

According to Assistant Fire Chief of the Elsberry Fire Protection Department, Bob Kindred, everyone should have a plan, whether it’s for flood, fire or any other kind of disaster that could potentially happen.

“We train constantly on several kinds of emergencies. For example on MFA they have chemicals in a locked area and if a fire were to find its way there, we’re not going to fight it we’re going to evacuate,” said Kindred. “And really that’s our plan all along. We’ll fight a fire if we think it’s feasible but if it’s in a hazardous area or involves chemicals like anemone nitrates or other chemicals we’re just going to evacuate the area up to half a mile in all directions.”

But it’s not just MFA and their chemicals that Elsberry Fire Fighters and other emergency crews need to worry about. Elsberry also has two neighboring gas stations and if one goes the other would have to go as well, right? Actually, according to Kindred there are several types of accidents that could happen at a gas station. One could be a spill and someone drops a cigarette, or a person at the pump lights a smoke and catches the gasoline on fire.

“The people at the gas station can shut off the power to those pumps and stop the flow of fuel going through them,” said Kindred. “If a person drives a car right into the pump and knocks it over, the pumps have break off valves and are designed to not flow anymore gas, so we’re not overly concerned with those types of problems.”

The main thing is according to Kindred, is the first arriving crews do what they call a size up, where they decide whether they want to fight an offensive fire or a defensive fire. A defensive fire, the crew will set up a perimeter and not allow any one in and evacuate. An offensive fire, the crew will make an offensive attack on the fire and put the fire out.

“The first arriving engine company is going to have to make that decision and then when the incident commander gets on the scene, he’ll take over and set up a command post and decide whether to continue the original decision or switch to something else,” said Kindred. “But when you look at other hazards, for example the flooding that’s been going on, these kinds of problems don’t happen overnight and typically we have plenty of warning when something like this comes our way.”

According to Kindred the best thing they can do, or anyone can do, is get the word out to evacuate the area, if that’s what’s called for. Usually, there will be areas set up for sandbagging, but if those don’t hold up or fails all together the biggest loss will be to businesses.

“We don’t have a lot of homes that sit in flood areas, but there are people who decide they want to ride out the flood and that’s entirely up to them and we will rescue them when it becomes too much,” said Kindred. “We have boats and highly trained people so we will do whatever we need to do in order to protect our residents and community.”

So what is the best way to plan for potential hazards? Kindred went on to explain how one of the best things a family can do is sit down and communicate; to know what potential hazards are around them and how it could affect them in the event of an emergency.

“You want to look at a few things,” said Kindred. “Where are the exits? If this happens here can we get here? Do we have what we need to survive if left stranded; water, food, flashlights, etc.? I mean there are all kinds of things a person can prepare for but there are also things that happen so unexpected and it’s better to have something in place for those moments.”

According to Kindred emergency safety all depends on proper planning, especially for kids.

“Children need a definite plan of attack when it comes to emergencies,” said Kindred. “And it’s not just fires or bad weather families should have plans for. The midwest is plagued by all kinds of problems. Unpredictable weather, floods, droughts – which are fire hazards, farm lands and chemical plants and there should be something in motion for all of them.”

Kindred continued by stating practice, practice and more practice. According to him, repeating an emergency plan is another key thing.

“There is no such thing as too much practice,” explained Kindred. “Practice your evacuation routes. Know your areas and community; keep in close contact with your neighbors and elderly. Have supplies that can see you through the problem. If it’s necessary to climb out of a window, make sure kids practice using the fire escape ladder. In fact the USFA recommends practicing fire drills in the home at least once per month.”

Some steps families and individuals can take are as such:

• Arrange an evacuation plan ahead of time.

• Identify where to go in the event of an evacuation.

• Try to have more than one option: the home of a friend or family member in another town, a hotel or a shelter.

• Keep the phone numbers and addresses of these locations handy.

• Map out a primary route and a backup route in case roads are blocked or impassable.

• Make sure to have a map of the area available.

• In case family members are separated before or during the evacuation, identify a specific place to meet and ask an out-of-town friend or family member to act as a contact person.

• Pay attention to weather radio, local radio or TV stations for evacuation instructions.

• If advised to evacuate, do so immediately.

• Create a complete home inventory of personal property for tax and insurance reasons.

• Finally, plan what to take in the event of an emergency like an emergency kit, which includes food, water, light, radio, sanitary and warms items, bottled water clothing and bedding (sleeping bags, pillows), flashlight, battery-powered radio and extra batteries, special items for infants or elderly or disabled family members, cash, glasses, contact info, medicines, prescriptions and first aid kit.

“Safety first,” said Kindred. “Knowing, having a plan, helping each other, working together and being prepared is the best way to stay alive and at the end of the day that’s all any of us could ask for.”

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