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It's National Preparedness Month, local officials urge planning, communication

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extra Willmar, 56201
Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

WILLMAR -- Kandiyohi County Emergency Management Director Don Ericson usually hears the same comment from people affected by tornados or other severe weather situations.

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"They say "I never thought it would happen to me,'" he says. "No one expects it to happen to them."

While Federal Emergency Management Agency officials urge preparedness for all types of disasters and emergencies during National Preparedness Month, the greatest emergency threat locally is severe weather, Ericson says.

And the greatest threat to citizen preparedness is complacency, Ericson says. "We fight complacency. It has happened and will continue to happen."

This month, FEMA is urging citizens to create disaster supply survival kits that include basic supplies like food, water, flash lights, and a battery-operated or weather radio. See the graphic and sidebar for what you should include in your basic supply kit and what additional items to consider adding to the kit.

Building a kit can be pretty simple, Ericson says. Thinking ahead is key. For example, what would you pack if you needed to leave quickly and be gone for two to three days? Those items, including medications, eyeglasses and a list of phone numbers, can be packed quickly into a "bug out" bag.

Ericson also urges citizens to put some thought into communications planning. For example, a family can appoint someone that every family member calls and checks in with in the event of an emergency. If such a plan is set up in advance and used, much stress and confusion can be alleviated.

After a disaster or weather event, emergency officials can spend a great deal of time helping citizens track down their relatives or friends, he says. The number of calls could be reduced if citizens made an emergency communications plan.

"Preplanning is a simple thing, but can alleviate lots of stress," he says.

The planning doesn't have to be complex. It can be as simple as a practice fire drill, with a preset meeting place, so everyone knows how to get out of a home or business and knows where to meet afterward to be accounted for. Similarly, planning should include a community meeting location where family members can gather after a disaster situation.

"Just have a plan on how you will communicate," he says. "Because that's what will fail first."

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