Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV


October 2, 2012

Disaster preparedness

Lessons can be learned from derecho

— — Three months ago, a powerful straight-line wind storm referred to as a “derecho” hammered the region. There was little to no advance warning about the approaching storm — other than the menacing storm clouds hovering above Bluefield on the fateful evening of June 29.

With wind gusts of up to 80 mph, the storm downed trees and power lines across the region, moved a 5,000-pound wall at Mitchell Stadium and left more than a half-million Appalachian Power customers across West Virginia and Virginia in the dark for days.

Area human service agencies are hoping lessons can be learned from the wind storm. After all, fall is here, and it won’t be long before Old Man Winter comes knocking at the door.

Craig Hammond, director of the Bluefield Union Mission, said residents are being encouraged to stock up on 25 items that could make coping with the next disaster a little easier.

After the storm, much of the mission’s work involved going door-to-door and helping people who could not get to the union mission on their own. Many of them did not have any supplies such as water or groceries. Had those families been better prepared for a disaster, it would have helped to relieve the burden placed on local human service agencies.

“If everybody could get better prepared and take an hour to put together a plan, it would really help agencies that respond to these disasters,” Hammond said last week.

We agree. Everyone should have a disaster preparedness plan and kit in their homes — particularly with winter just around the corner. And if we are to believe what some are saying, it could be another rough winter for the region.

To help people with emergency preparations, the Greater Bluefield Ministerial Association and the Bluefield Union Mission have compiled a list of 25 items that could help a household cope with a disaster such as the windstorm or a major snowstorm. The list has been dubbed “The Top 25 Things You Should Have.”

Those disaster preparedness items families should have on hand, according to Hammond, include water, food, medications, and infant formula if there is an infant child in the family. The disaster plan should be customized to include important family documents. And every family’s emergency planning should address the care of pets, aiding family members with special needs, cold weather, power outages, and safely shutting off utilities.

No one knows what tomorrow will bring. And it’s still too early to say whether the region can expect a rough or mild winter. That’s why everyone should have a disaster preparedness plan, and an emergency supply of food, water, batteries, flashlight and other supplies on hand for the next time the power does go off.

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