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Susan Odum
Extension Educator, Community and Economic Development
University of Illinois Extension
912 S Commercial Street
Suite 4
Harrisburg, IL 62946
Phone: 618-252-8391
FAX: 618-253-3006

Community and Economic Development

Community and Economic Development

Consumer & Economic Development

Southern Illinois: R U RDY?

So Are You Ready in the event disaster strikes? For most of us, unfortunately, the answer is a resounding NO.

Hurricane Harvey slammed ashore in southeast Texas as a Category 4 Hurricane on Friday, August 25th with maximum sustained winds and record rainfall totals. Days later, Tropical Storm Harvey continued to take lives and deliver record-breaking rainfall to parts of Texas and Louisiana.

While southernmost Illinois is not a coastal community, we here in Southern Illinois are not immune to the destruction and devastation strong winds can leave behind as evidenced by the May 2009 "derecho", the May 1982 tornado in Marion, the 2012 Leap Day tornado that left a path of destruction from the City of Harrisburg to the Village of Ridgway, the November 2013 tornado in Brookport, and the July 2016 tornado in Metropolis. Unfortunately, the devastation doesn't stop with the wind. As a region we have also experienced record rainfall totals and devastating floods, such as the record flooding that occurred in the region in 2011 along the Ohio and the Mississippi Rivers, in addition to fires, droughts, and the impacts of extreme heat and cold.

Every day, millions of people wake up, go to work, drop their kids off at school, and enjoy leisure time with family and friends, following daily routines and schedules. However, when the unexpected happens, routines change drastically, and people are suddenly aware of how fragile their lives can be. Disasters disrupt hundreds of thousands of lives and cost millions of dollars every year leaving lasting effects on both people and property. Yet, few families have any kind of preparedness plan in place to protect their family members and their possessions from avoidable losses.

Being prepared and having a plan can reduce fear and anxiety before and during a disaster, in addition to helping you cope with and recover in the aftermath. Disasters range from the inconvenient to the devastating. While there is no way to adequately prepare for the "storm of all storms", taking some simple preparedness steps in advance can minimize the impact and make a big difference in ensuring the safety and well-being of individuals, families, businesses and communities.

It is essential to begin planning before a disaster occurs. Whether it is ensuring you have adequate insurance protection for your home, health and automobiles; purchasing a weather radio; having a working smoke detector; developing a disaster preparedness kit; or installing an above- or below- ground safe room; now is the time to think about the potential disasters that might affect you and your household, and determine how best to insure your family and property against potential loss.

It is also essential to plan in advance what you will do in an emergency to take care of yourself and your loved ones. Unfortunately, your family may not be together when disaster strikes, so plan how you will contact one another and review what you will do in different situations. Depending on the circumstances and the nature of the disaster, the first important decision is whether you will shelter-in-place or flee. You need to understand and plan for both possibilities. Staying put and creating a barrier between yourself and the outside can be a matter of survival, as can creating a plan to assemble your family and flee to another destination in the event of an emergency.

It is also important to think about the places where your family members spend time, such as school and work, and to understand their emergency plans and how they communicate with families during an emergency. Susan Odum, Community Economic Development Educator with the University of Illinois Extension notes: "while it may be impossible to avoid disaster completely, addressing key planning issues in advance and ensuring adequate safeguards are in place, can make a huge difference in how your family overcomes the devastation."

Disaster education content adapted for this article from the Extension Disaster Education Network (EDEN), which assists individuals, businesses and communities in reducing the impact of disasters through education.

Questions? Contact Susan Odum, Extension Educator, Community and Economic Development at

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