As we live in turbulent times it is important to be prepared for any unplanned events or disasters. Many may say that Minnesota is safe from devastating disasters like we have seen in the Southern United States, however, it is important to not be complacent and keep vigilant of what can happen to any Minnesotan.
Historically we have seen devastating winter storms, floods, and tornadoes. According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) statistics, the State of Minnesota has had an annual average of 36 tornadoes between the years of 1950 – 2016, there were a total of 99 deaths and 1,982 injuries related to tornadoes. During this period, we saw the greatest numbers of tornadoes in history. During 2010 there was 113 tornadoes for the year; 71 tornadoes in the month of June alone. On June 17th, there were 48 tornadoes which is when Wadena, MN and several other towns were extremely hard hit. Winter storms usually create many power outages and minor injuries, but occasionally there is a storm that many are not ready for. The Halloween Blizzard of 1991 is one of those storms. The winter storm lasted 3 days, thousands were without power for days to weeks, and there were many injuries and some deaths. In other years, snow accumulation has created flooding disasters, such as the Red River flood in Grand Forks during the spring of 1997.
Much of the success in responding to these disasters were from prior preparedness efforts. The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) theme for the September Preparedness Month is: Disasters Don’t Plan Ahead. YOU CAN. The goal of Preparedness Month is all individuals increase their engagement in preparedness actions in their daily lives. FEMA has broken down the overarching theme into 4 categories, each week will focus on one category.
- Week 1: September 1-9 Make a plan for Yourself, Family, and Friends
- Week 2: September 10-16 Plan to help your Neighbor and Community
- Week 3: September 17-23 Practice and Build Out Your Plans
- Week 4: September 24-30 Get Involved! Be a Part of Something Larger
For the first week, the goal is to create a plan for yourself, family, and friends. As a Healthcare Coalition, we spend many hours creating plans and discussing how each facility can help out another facility. But, does any of your facilities provided planning opportunities for your staff? Do your employees have a plan so they can support your facility during a medical surge or evacuation? During the first preparedness week, a great strategy for any facility would be:
- Audit your facilities mass notification plan and make sure all employees are in the system annually.
- Review your facilities emergency management plan.
- Create and/or review your emergency management financial plans for your facility.
Strategies to be used at home would be:
- Ensure your insurance, mortgage, and bank records stored in a safe location where water and fire cannot get to them
- Create emergency response and evacuation plans for power outage, flooding, snow storms, and tornadoes for your family.
For the second week, the goal is to create plans to help your neighbor and community. As a healthcare facility, the neighbors can be other healthcare entities and your employees; The community can be your government entities, and the Healthcare Coalition that may need support at any given time and vice versa. Many of the facilities have already created Mutual Aid agreements with other healthcare facilities, but does your facility have agreements with community entities? It is important that your facility has plans in place on how the local government will support your facility and how your facility will support the local government. Ready.gov has some suggestions for your personnel’s home communities:
- Take the You are the Help Until Help Arrives training. (https://community.fema.gov/until-help-arrives)
- Check on your neighbors. Create a program where neighbors come together and are prepared to help others. This is crucial for those families who have a loved one who will be called to provide disaster relief (nurses, hospital staff, police, firefighters, etc.), and those families can work together with other families to create safety and accountability.
- On National Preparedness Day– Sept. 15th. Hold or go to an event that can bring together neighbors and create community plans.
In the coming weeks, Week three and four, it will be important to build out the plans, practice the plans, evolve the plans, and to get involved with facility and community events. Many of the facilities that are involved with the Coalition this month are doing just that. West Central Coalition long term care (LTC) will have a Shelter in place exercise and both West Central and Central Coalition will participate in an High Consequence Infectious Disease exercise in the coming month. For the Home, everyone can practice their home emergency plans. Ready.gov suggests completing an Emergency Financial First Aid Kit (EFFAK) and knowing your community resources (food shelves, shelter locations, etc.). To get involved, any person can support the community resources or help plan and prepare with one of your community organizations you belong to.
Through proper preparation and training your work and home life will run smoother during any emergency. Your employer will be able to count on you as you will be able to count on your family, neighbors, and community. National preparedness day is coming up in a few days; look around for an event to join in your community or at your facility. Keep this year’s theme, Disasters Don’t Plan Ahead. YOU CAN, in mind as it will remind you that you can control much of the outcomes of a disaster through planning and community support.
Department of Natural Resources (DNR), 2017; Minnesota Tornado History and Statistics. http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/climate/summaries_and_publications/tornadoes.html)
Department of Homeland Security, N/A; National Preparedness Month. www.ready.gov/september