Dave Clippert is no fan of candles, and he makes no apologies for that.
Due to the fire hazard candles present, Clippert, director of the Sedalia-Pettis County Emergency Management Agency, encourages people to ditch the wicks as part of their home emergency kits and replace them with flashlights with working batteries. September is National Preparedness Month, so Clippert is working not only to get the word out about the need to have emergency supplies on hand but also to ensure the whole family knows the emergency plan.
“The whole theme of this month is communicating the emergency plan,” Clippert said. “Through the month I will mostly focus on personal, family-type plans.”
In an email sent out Thursday to local media, Clippert wrote that “making sure each member of the family knows how to contact others during a disaster is very important. Many times when disaster strikes a community our families are apart from each other at school, work, etc. Having a plan to ensure you are able to connect with each other can bring a great peace of mind.”
Clippert said it is important to come up with the phone number for a family friend or a relative who lives out of state who can be texted. As everyone checks in, the “point person” can relay messages since they likely will not be affected by whatever the disaster may be.
A continuing preparedness success story is how schools nationwide educate students and staff members on the most safe and efficient ways to react to fires and inclement weather. Clippert said no student has died in a fire in a school in about 75 years – “an amazing number. That is all due to the continual prepping from kindergarten on up. All the kids know, ‘I have a specific way I am going to file out of here and this is where I am going to go.’”
In 2011, those plans were put into action when a midday tornado cut across the south end of Sedalia. My daughter was at Smith-Cotton High School and my son was at Sedalia Middle School; I was bunkered in the basement of the Sedalia Democrat listening to the scanner, and I never felt so helpless in my life. Thankfully, the tornado moved around the high school and bounced over the middle school. All students emerged unscathed.
“The plans did work,” Clippert said. “During a real event, (students) knew what to do and they did it right.”
Clippert said flooding can happen anywhere when a storm dumps more rain than a sewer system can handle. When that flash flooding occurs, there are still too many people who ignore the “Turn around, don’t drown” message and try to drive through. This puts the driver in danger and pulls needed emergency resources from other areas.
“The whole idea of National Preparedness Month is to give people the idea of what we should focus on, what are our risks where we are,” Clippert said. He urges residents to visit the website ready.gov to learn more about creating emergency plans and ensuring everyone knows about them.
“Here in Sedalia, we are not likely to have to evacuate unless major tornado hits,” he said. Still he recommends putting together an emergency kit that includes stuff that most people already have in their homes: canned food and a manual can opener, blankets and bottled water. If an ice storm hits, power could be knocked out for a couple of weeks, Clippert warned. Having charcoal or gas for your grill through such times means you could still cook – so long as you keep the grill outside.
When Clippert is out of town and staying at a hotel or motel, after he checks into his room he will take the exit stairs to ensure the doors to the stairway are not locked.
“Little things like that are what National Preparedness Month is all about,” he said.
Bob Satnan is the communications director for Sedalia School District 200.