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Message from the desk of Hayes County Emergency Management PDF Print E-mail
Written by Wauneta Breeze   
Thursday, 21 April 2011 21:01

By Charlynn Hamilton

Hayes County Emergency Manager


I think most of us faired the snow storm pretty well. No electricity was probably the worst thing we all had to endure, but survival is the name of the game.

Because of the storm I realized I was not as prepared as I could be. My thoughts were all over the place and thought you might benefit from them as well.

1. Corded telephone — I found my cell was down for a short time till the tower’s generator kicked in and then realized I didn’t know how I was going to charge it when it was dead. How was I going to make calls on my dead cell phone? The caller ID does not work on my phone with no power so I had to take every call on Call Waiting. How do you call for help or to let your loved ones know you are okay with no electricity?

2. Plenty of candles, flashlights and batteries — Knowing where they are and placing them around the house is a great idea. You’ll never know where you will be when the lights go out.

3. Battery operated radio with extra batteries — The one I thought I had was taken to the quonset and consequently thrown out when it was bumped and knocked onto the floor (which I did not know until I wanted to use it!)

4. NOAA weather radio with extra batteries — I have one of these radios but have no clue where it is and it’s kind of hard to find things in the dark.

5. Jug of water in the refrigerator — A person gets thirsty when the well is off with no electricity…

6. Handi-wipes — They come in handy when I needed to wash my hands and had no water available.

7. Food that does not need to be heated — I was right in the middle of cooking supper when the power went off. Trying to find something else to eat when your heart is set on the cold food on the stove seems to make it more of a challenge. I was thankful I had a hand can opener.

Meanwhile, I was receiving phone calls from other emergency managers, and trying to get through to the power company (which never happened). Then Russ from SWPPD called me with a report.

Part of my job is to report to the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) about what is happening in my county. I called them to report that Chase, Hayes, Hitchcock and Dundy counties were completely without power and Chase was in a blizzard at the time.

How can I let the people of these counties know what the problem is and that there was no way of knowing when power will be restored. I called my good buddies at KICX and Coyote Country. Here again, I could have been better prepared and had after-hours contact information. Rich and Jesse were on the ball and got the message out on the radio. Because of them, some of you got the message through the radio.

I had reported to the National Weather Service (NWS) in North Platte on the current weather situation. I called them back and asked if they had after-hour numbers for North Platte radio stations. They did not, but offered to put the message out on NOAA weather radio for Chase and Hayes Counties. Then I needed to contact NWS in Goodland to have them do the message for Dundy and Hitchcock Counties. It would be interesting to me to know if you heard the message and if it was useful information to you.

NEMA did call back and they got confirmation that TRI-State Generation and Transmission out of Colorado was having problems servicing their area. NPPD was having problems supplying SWPPD. But there was no word on how long the electricity would be off.

Then my thoughts started going out to who in the county depended on electricity for their medical needs. What about those on oxygen and would need help if the power did not come back on soon? I was thankful when my power came on. All these events prompted me to seriously reflect on what could have been different; I decided these were changes that needed to happen.

So, here is a list of the things that I am going to do to be better prepared. 1) Purchase a corded phone with caller ID that requires no power to operate, 2) get a battery operated radio and extra batteries, 3) find my NOAA radio, and 4) get a contact list made up of media sources.

The Southwest PET region of emergency managers are working with Southwest Public Health Department on a special needs program to assist first responders during emergencies. I will let you know more about it as soon as I can.

I put out a call on CodeRED on Friday, if you did not receive the call, please contact me. We need to keep the system as up-to-date as possible.

With the severe weather on its way, be sure to let me know if you want to be signed up for free CodeRED weather warnings. If your address or phone number has changed or if you want to add another number, please let me know.

Well, this story adds another chapter to “Life in Hayes County.” Please think about what you can do to be better prepared in a crisis, it will just make it easier if it happens. Be sure to contact me with any concerns, questions or just your thoughts at any time.