By TIM UNRUH
For Saline County
As spring approaches, Saline County officials are on point, promoting disaster preparedness.
In advance of Severe Weather Awareness Week Monday through March 10, Saline County Emergency Management is launching a Disaster Kits Project to help folks get ready for deadly storms and other disasters.
Citizens can complete various tasks to win a disaster kit for their families, said Natasha Cundy, Emergency Management deputy director.
Kits include flashlights, first aid kits, a weather radio, and other necessary gear.
“They’re meant to be a building block for the family to continue adding to, to prepare themselves at home for a disaster,” she said.
Common on the list are tornadoes, wildfires, and earthquakes, “anything you need to shelter from, or evacuation from, including power outages,” Cundy said. “This is meant to be an educational program to bring awareness to county citizens and urge them to prepare at home.”
Emergency Management’s website is linked to its Facebook social media page, containing more information on the kits program as well as links to educational materials, reviews, and games to play online to prepare for disasters.
You can complete a 10-question quiz to win a disaster kit, she said, but you must get all answers correct. Another way to obtain a kit is to complete daily Facebook challenges next Monday through Friday.
“If you complete the challenges and tag us on your post, you win a free kit,” Cundy said.
This event coincides with an additional All-Hazard Disaster Kit project that Saline County Emergency Management has rolled out to assist families that struggle to prepare for disasters due to their financial situation.
“The fact is that some preparedness actions are just too costly for people in poverty to afford. For example, purchasing pre-made disaster kits, purchasing flood insurance, or strengthening a home’s resiliency for those living paycheck to paycheck is costly and impractical,” said Michelle Weis, Saline County Emergency Management director.
“With an average of 52 severe and inclement weather events a year and at least one weather event a week in Saline County, low-income households within our country suffer disproportionately when a disaster occurs,” she said. “These kits are available for low-income families that struggle to prepare for disasters due to their financial situation.”
This kit project was funded by a $28,250 grant from the county, using federal American Rescue Plan Act funds.
Both projects have kits designed to be practical, allowing families to rotate items in the kit with everyday needs from their homes.
“This process will enable the supplies in the kit to not exceed their shelf life and not cause Saline County residents to break the bank to stay prepared,” Weis said.
Participants can also enter for a chance to set off the outdoor warning sirens in April, Cundy said. Just go to the website and click the button for the drawing to enter.
Emergency management tests sirens on the first Monday of every month, weather permitting.
“If it’s overcast or looks like bad weather, we wait, so people don’t think there’s an actual event happening,” she said.
Saline County’s 19 sirens run for three minutes and then automatically shut off.
The lucky winner will also be able to watch the emergency computer system in operation, showing whether each siren is working properly or requires attention, Cundy said.
“The community is very well prepared for a disaster, but it’s always important to continue your education in what you can do to prepare yourselves at home,” she said. “Make plans with family members and make sure you are aware of what you’re going to do in case of a disaster. With the constant changes in technology, it’s important to keep up to date on how to receive emergency alerts in your community.”
Local media plays an important role as well, said Randy Picking, severe weather anchor for Eagle Radio stations — KSKG, Prime 94.5 FM and KINA AM and 107.5 FM — whether it be alerts on websites or radio stations.
“Residents in central Kansas are very lucky that radio stations care about providing timely information concerning severe weather,” he said. “This could be a very active storm season. With what happened this past weekend in southwest Kansas and Oklahoma, we’re getting an early start.”
It’s crucial that people know what to do before severe weather threatens, said Todd Pittenger, news director for Meridian Media, which includes KSAL AM 1150 and FM 106.7; Y93.7 FM; 104.9 FM, of Salina, and AM 1560 KABI in Abilene.
“It’s important to have a weather radio as well. When that radio goes off, it’s your clue to then tune to local radio,” he said.
The media’s job is to supply details so folks can make an informed decision, Picking said, such as when it’s time to take shelter.
He encouraged attending a free Storm Spotter Class at 6:30 p.m. March 22 in Fitzpatrick Auditorium on the campus of Kansas Wesleyan University.