Michigan Preparedness Month champions safety

By: Sherri Kolade | C&G Newspapers | Published September 11, 2017

OAKLAND COUNTY — Disasters don’t discriminate.  

No matter where you live, who you are or how much is in your pocket, weather tragedies, biohazards and all-around emergencies can threaten anyone. 

That’s why Michigan Preparedness Month encourages residents to stay safe through preparedness education in September.

“Taking time to create an emergency plan or to learn basic first aid skills can save lives,” said Capt. Chris A. Kelenske, deputy state director of emergency management and homeland security, and commander of the Michigan State Police. “It’s important that individuals and families plan now so they are better equipped to react when an emergency or disaster strikes.” 

The topic is fresh in people’s minds — Hurricane Harvey recently devastated parts of Texas, Hurricane Irma hit the Caribbean Islands and Florida, and worldwide incidents include a recent mudslide in Sierra Leone.

Residents are encouraged to know the hazards that could reach their own communities and to create an emergency supply kit. Businesses are encouraged to prepare for emergencies and disasters by creating an emergency preparedness program, according to a press release. 

Households should be able to sustain themselves for at least 72 hours with an emergency preparedness kit supplied with food, water and medications, Kelenske said. 

During any emergency or disaster, critical services like electricity, clean water and access to grocery stores could be impacted, while police and emergency response could be drastically delayed, he said.

Since 2015, Gov. Rick Snyder has issued disaster declarations for incidents involving severe thunderstorms, flash flooding and a sinkhole, the release states. On Oct. 21, 2016, Snyder declared a state of disaster for Marquette County after storms, heavy rain and flash flooding caused severe damage. On June 23, 2017, a disaster declaration was made for Isabella and Midland counties after torrential rainfall and flash flooding caused widespread damage, the release states. On June 28, Bay and Gladwin counties were added to the declaration. Upcoming “Prepare Fairs” in Marquette and Mount Pleasant were created to take preparedness into action and commemorate Michigan Preparedness Month, Kelenske said.

Learning skills such as CPR would be a good idea, according to officials. Agencies nationwide are joining forces with the theme of “Disasters Don’t Plan Ahead. You Can.” 

“They are the help until help arrives,” Kelenske said during a phone interview.

Allison Clark, safety officer and emergency preparedness coordinator for Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital, said that Henry Ford Health System has a preparedness coordinator and network.

Clark said that the hospital’s local health care preparedness network includes a partnership with over 100 agencies that provide emergency medical services, hospital long-term care facilities, public health agencies and more through Regional Healthcare Coalitions. 

RHC is a federally funded program run by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. 

“We all frequently work together to make sure plans are in place for different emergencies, and that we understand the roles and responsibilities that each agency plays (to) ensure we have a really resilient and ready community — that is what we do as a community group,” Clark said.

Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital will host an Emergency Preparedness Expo 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Sept. 26 at the hospital, 6777 W. Maple Road in West Bloomfield, hospital representative Sally Ann Brown said.

The expo is to help families be prepared during an emergency — whether that be a fire, a power outage, a flood or something else. Representatives from Henry Ford, Oakland County Public Health and Emergency Management, the West Bloomfield Fire Department and more will be available to answer questions on topics such as personal preparedness planning, household emergency preparedness, weather safety, cybersecurity,  basic lifesaving techniques and more, according to a press release.

Clark said that the hospital prepares for disasters through training exercises. 

She said that when a deadly meningitis outbreak happened in 2012, the hospital had over 108 patients to treat.

“It ended up turning into a much more complicated case and required pretty complex pharmaceuticals,” she said, adding that the health care system network spread patients out to different hospitals and brought in nurses from Ohio so that one hospital would not be “completely overloaded.”

Clark added that the system has been activated a few times, which causes the hospital to adjust and perfect its emergency preparedness work. 

“We have all hazard planning. … No matter what the emergency is, our plans are supposed to address it,” she said of the hospital’s Hazard Vulnerability Assessment, which is required at all hospitals. The assessment addresses the hospital’s biggest threats.

“And (you) identify what you think you are most at risk for and why, and you really start to work on highest risk areas to make sure we have a plan in place,” Clark said. 

Farmington Hills Antioch Lutheran Church Pastor Sean Myers and his congregation of about 300 are doing their part to help in disaster relief.

“We are collecting funds (for) disaster response to support the people in Houston (through) Lutheran Disaster Response,” he said.

Myers said that the church partnered up with LDR — a nationwide group that assists people during disasters —  and will donate money to help people impacted by Hurricane Harvey.

“Also, our high schoolers are making blankets for the victims down there as part of God’s Work Our Hands Sunday” on Sept. 10, Myers said of the nationwide Evangelical Lutheran movement. “We have four different projects going on Sunday (Sept. 10), and one of them is that.”

Myers added that the church is also looking at Hurricane Harvey victims’ future needs.

“There are going to be more needs down the road for Harvey,” he said, adding that he is communicating with pastors in the Houston area. “What still needs to be done? What still needs help?”

Myers said the church and other Lutheran churches throughout the nation will continue to answer that question during a national Lutheran youth gathering of about 30,000 people held every few years — next summer, the gathering will take place in Houston.

“Youth from all over the country are going to be down there, going to be worshiping,” Myers said, adding that the gathering was held in Detroit a few years ago. 

Myers said that his congregation is also mindful about helping locals.

“We are at the evacuation site for the high school (North Farmington High School) next to us and Courtyard Manor, a residence behind us,” Myers said, adding that he cannot recall a time when either of those entities needed to use the church building as an evacuation site.

Kelenske said during a phone interview that it is important to “know what to bring and where to go” when it comes to preparing for disasters.

“Locally, obviously, we want people to have their own types of preparedness initiatives. Maybe it is not as big or official as a Prepare Fair, but … we want to make sure that people get this messaging out — that people don’t wait, (but) communicate, and make their emergency plan today.”  

For more information on donating to Hurricane Harvey relief efforts through Farmington Hills Antioch Lutheran Church, call (248) 626-7906.

For more information on emergency preparedness, go to www.michigan.gov/msp. For more information on the Prepare Fair, go to www.michigan.gov/miready.

For more information on Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital, go to www.henryford.com/locations/west-bloomfield.