Preparing For A Disaster

By: Meaghan M. Norman Email
By: Meaghan M. Norman Email

While Michigan has seen its fair share of severe weather already this Spring, it's nothing compared to what's happening to the south.

"I'm not sure any community can be 100 percent prepared for something like that," said Lansing's Emergency Management Chief Trent Atkins.

The gripping images from Missouri and Oklahoma have many wonder, is Lansing equipped to handle such a disaster? But first, why has the country been ravaged by storm after storm?

"When the jet stream does stay in a particular configuration we can see the same types of weather repeated over and over and that's been the case for the last few months," said MSU Geography Professor Jeff Andresen. He says this continuous jet stream pattern is to blame for cycling through the severe weather and the summertime will likely bring more.

"That's when we see the maximum frequency of severe weather and tornadoes as it moves [toward] the upper Midwest," said Andresen.

Chief Atkins says the city has several contingency plans in place, depending on the disaster, which includes relying on volunteers.

"They are trained by the national weather service and will spot the weather for us."

In the communications center of the Emergency Management Center, in the fire station on Marshall Street, volunteers will come in, monitor phones, radios and the radar to keep track of the storms, what's happening on the roads and keep people informed.

"Over the last few years, with the good preparedness we've been able to identify potential threats and activate warning signs," said Atkins.

They work with firefighters, police, the road commission --- it's all hands on deck during an emergency. But the most important job is informing the public.

"That's what we work on the hardest, to make sure we have the tools to notify the community when they're at risk."

Hospitals also have emergency plans. Administrators at Sparrow Hospital say it practices routine drills about twice a year, evacuating patients to other mobile facilities. The off-site locations are Harry Hill Center, Eastern's field house and last resort is the Lansing Center. Ira Ginsburg, the senior vice president of operations at Sparrow believes the hospital is prepared to the best of its ability.

"We go in an actually simulate a disaster we sometimes have school children or students come in as patients. Our emergency room is activated to take care of them and they're dispersed to areas where they may be needed."

The hospital has a backup generator that can supply 100 percent power in case the city's power gets knocked out. On average, the hospital has about 500 patients and estimates that it would take just a few minute to move patients to the inner core of the building and up to an hour to move them all off site.

Next month, in collaboration with Ingham, there will be another drill, this time simulating a plane crash at the airport where mobile hospitals will be in use.

These are all steps and precautions that the city and county take to ensure that when a disaster happens, they have already taken a proactive approach to handle whatever Mother Nature throws their way.

"When we have watches and warnings, it's important to remember that it can happen here and to take it seriously," advises Andresen.

Take it seriously and stay updated --- that's your best action plan during dangerous weather.

Hospitals and other services need volunteers when emergencies happen. To find out how to sign up and to learn how to prepare yourself and your home just click on the links below.


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