In wake of recent storms in Minnesota, event offers chance to prepare for next natural disaster

Minnesota storms
Damage from severe storms is seen at the Faribault Municipal Airport on Sept. 21, 2018, in Faribault, Minn. Storms swept across the region, producing several tornadoes.
David Joles | Star Tribune via AP 2018

Southern Minnesota has seen tornadoes, flooding and severe winter storms in the past couple years — and an event taking place Tuesday night aims to get residents better prepared for the next emergency.

Officials in Rice County are hosting the free event in Faribault, but the lessons are ones that can apply anywhere in the state.

Rice County Public Health-Emergency Preparedness Coordinator Tracy Ackman-Shaw said one important thing for people to consider is that they may not have cell phone service after a natural disaster. That means no way to look up directions, and perhaps no way to look up contact information.

"I'm always thinking about, 'OK — does my child have phone numbers written down, if they couldn't use their phone? Does my child know who they should call, where they should go, if I was separated from them during an emergency?' " she said.

If you do still have phone service after a natural disaster, you may not have power — so Ackman-Shaw said it's also good to have a car phone charger available.

Tuesday's presentation will include the Rice County Sheriff’s Office, the Faribault Fire Department, the Rice County Community Emergency Response Team and Rice County Public Health. They're agencies that worked together when the county was hit by several tornadoes in September 2018.

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The event in Faribault runs from 7-8:15 p.m. at the American Legion, 112 Fifth St. NE. It's free, and children interested in learning more about emergency preparedness are welcome to attend.

Other topics include winter weather preparedness, proactive ways to help your neighborhood during emergencies, and how to put together a "go bag" in case you need to evacuate your home.

"We've been hearing about this in California with the wildfires. People are told, 'You have five minutes to leave your home ... because the fire is coming,'" Ackman-Shaw said. "Even though we don't really have wildfires here, we could have flooding. We've experienced tornadoes down here, and you have no electricity and might have to leave kind of quickly."

She said a go bag should include prescription medications, snacks, water — anything you might need if you have to leave your home for a few days. If you have pets, you should include food and supplies for them, too.

Ackman-Shaw said some preparation now can pay dividends down the road not just for you — but for your neighbors and community, too.

"We have experienced that when neighbors are impacted or somebody is impacted with a disaster or an emergency ... typically, people want to help out, help their neighbor, help their community," she said. "And you really can't do that or do that well if you yourself are not prepared for that emergency at your home."

Ackman-Shaw recommended a couple of websites with more information about preparing for natural disasters and emergencies — find them here and here.

Find more information about Tuesday's event on the Rice County Public Health Facebook page.