Aspire to be your own first line of defense, and first responder

The destructive tornadoes last week in Nebraska and Iowa remind us to be prepared for storm season.

We all need to do a better job of preparing for severe weather season by developing plans of action to keep ourselves and our own families safe. Kansans need to preserve an identity of fortitude, resilience and self-reliance in times of need. We should not be expectant of government to care for us. If there is an emergency, the government will do its part, but in times of need, you need to act as your own first line of defense.

Don’t wait for a tornado to be barreling down on your house to figure out where you should go if you do not have a storm shelter. Talk to your family, your neighbors, or whoever you have in your circle of friends to reserve a place to go if you need to take cover. Do you have a backup plan if your neighbor is gone for the weekend and you can’t get into their basement?

If damaging weather does hit, and the all-clear is given, are you ready to help your family, friends and neighbors if they’re in need? A good citizen would be a default first responder. Is your chain saw ready for the season and do you have extra fuel, bar oil and gloves and eye protection ready to roll?

Also, here is a little trick that will help if we experience a true emergency and may be in need of outside funding to recoup some cleanup expenses – as you’re helping in the cleanup process, use your smartphone to take several photos of any damage you see before you start cleanup. Those photos will help our local emergency management office with the documentation needed for various emergency declaration processes.

Finally, gawkers should stay home. I’m always surprised by the number of people who will drive to dangerous areas just to see damage in-person. These days, I realize this is often done so photos can be posted to Facebook and you can have the most popular feed for a couple days. But all this activity really does is sabotage the actual helpful folks in the area who need you to get out of the way so cleanup can continue.

Dan Thalmann is the owner/publisher of the Washington County News and is a Past President of the Kansas Press Association. He has won numerous journalism awards in many categories over the years, including multiple awards as the best mid-sized weekly newspaper in Kansas.

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