FLINT TWP. — Damaging tornadoes that touched down in parts of Michigan on Monday are a recent reminder of the importance of a message from the American Red Cross, presented June 15 at the Flint Township Board meeting.
“I can tell you how to prepare but you are the one who has to do it’’ said Annette Swain. Disaster Program Manager for Genesee, Lapeer and Sanilac counties.
For example, she said, if a tornado came through and caused enough damage to trap you in your basement or crawl space, you need to have a survival kit with you to sustain you until help arrives.
It should include a whistle to signal rescuers trying to find you, medications, water, nonperishable food such as protein bars, toiletries, a flashlight, battery-powered radio and any other necessities to last up to 36 hours. Store them in a duffle bag, backpack or other grab and go container.
Swain also recommended downloading the Red Cross Tornado App to a cellphone.
“The tornado app will wake you up in the middle of the night,’’ Swain said. “It is called preparedness in your pocket.”
It also tells you if the Red Cross has a shelter open or if you need to stay where you are, she said.
Get the app online at www.redcross.org/prepare/mobile-apps or text GETNADO to 90999 or search for Red Cross Tornado in the Apple Store or Google Play. There are similar Red Cross mobile apps for flooding, wildfires, hurricanes, earthquakes, first aid and other emergencies.
Another thing families need to do is form an emergency action plan. What if everyone is away from home at different places when disaster strikes? Where will the family meet?
“What if there is no cellphone or phone service?” Swain said. “You have to have a plan in place. It is called being proactive.”
Swain also advised making backup copies of important papers such as a marriage license or birth certificate -two of several vital documents that can be difficult to replace quickly. Copies can be mailed to someone you know in another city or state for safekeeping or uploaded to a flash drive, for example, she said.
The American Red Cross conducts emergency preparedness sessions all the time for groups or households, she said.
Local disaster teams learned a harsh lesson from the ice storm in 2013.
“Our community was not as prepared as we thought we were,’’ Swain said. “It was a learning curve for everyone but there is no right or wrong.”
The Red Cross ran a shelter for nine days and helped 106 people of all ages from newborn to one over 100 years old, she said. They did not have a lot of volunteers but managed.
There may not be another ice storm of that magnitude for a long time but severe thunderstorms and flooding are other disasters happen more frequently, Swain said, noting a similar emergency response mounted for the record flooding in 2011.
Swain distributed information packets to everyone in the audience that included detailed pamphlets and worksheets for everything she talked about.
Township Supervisor Karyn Miller said she asked Swain to speak at the meeting, which is videotaped and broadcast on cable TV, because it can’t be stressed enough how important it is for each person to self-prepare for an emergency.
“It is important that residents know what to do in case of an emergency,’’ Miller said.
The township does not have a shelter to house people, she said. Not even Wal- Mart has enough bottled water to go around if an emergency lasts for a long period, she said. One gallon per person, per day is recommended.
Miller also mentioned that Jennifer Boyer is the emergency management program coordinator for Genesee County.
Every community larger than 15,000 people has to have its own standard operations for emergency procedures, she said. That includes conducting mock exercises.
Many of the advance preparations that Swain talked about can be found on the county website at www.gchd.us/ other_ services/emergency_ preparedness. php
The extensive list includes preparedness information for families, businesses and schools.
It provides how-to information about how assembling an Emergency Supply Kit, caring for pets during an emergency, purifying household water, creating a household emergency plan, a power outage checklist and links to health and emergency providers in Genesee County.