Lessons from the 2006 ice storm, coupled with additional planning during the year that followed, have left Parkland emergency management officials prepared for whatever winter weather Mother Nature wants to throw at the area.
St. Francois County Sheriff Dan Bullock, the county’s emergency operations director, and Assistant Director Alan Wells, who is director of the county’s 911 services, had things ready to go Thursday if the predicted ice storm knocked out power.
“We have emergency staff alert and ready if we need to beef up staffing,” Wells said. “If the power goes out, we will activate the shelters and warming centers.”
By noon, arrangements had been made for temporary shelters at the Leadwood fire station, Bismarck VFW Hall and the fire station, Desloge First Baptist Church and Farmington Civic Center. Park Hills had not set a location for its shelter. The shelters were ready to open if the electricity went out.
Warming centers were ready to activate in all the same locations except the church and at Desloge and Bonne Terre city halls.
Complications in housing residents with special needs were identified during the 2006 storm, so emergency planners addressed that by working with ambulance districts. In the event of a power outage, the ambulance houses in Farmington, Park Hill and Bonne Terre were ready to care for people with special needs whose homes were without electricity or heat.
Wells said the county street department had all its employees on standby and alert, as did the local fire and police departments.
Also by noon, Wells had notified the two Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT), comprised of volunteers who are trained to respond to disasters. Currently, 11 volunteers on the first team are trained. The second team is expected to complete their training in about a week, but can be activated if needed, Wells said.
CERT volunteers are trained to locate and turn off utilities, extinguish small fires, treat injuries, conduct light searches, and help relieve survivor stress. They have badges, wear hard hats and carry backpacks filled with supplies. CERT volunteers can be part of chain saw crews for debris removal and have advanced training in CPR. They also can work in emergency cooling or warming shelters.
Plans called for emergency information to be downloaded into the 211 system if the power went out. Until an emergency is declared, needs due to icing and other weather conditions should be reported to 911 if they are emergencies or to 573-431-3131 for non-emergency problems.
Typically, residents who need non-emergency information can get it by dialing 211. When emergency management measures are activated, information about shelters and other storm-related topics is put into the 211 system so non-emergency calls do not tie up 911 lines.
The 211 system is funded by the St. Louis Metropolitan United Way and the Missouri Foundation For Health.