First responders offer advice for National Preparedness Month

By: Brendan Losinski | Advertiser Times | Published September 17, 2020

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HARPER WOODS — September is the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s National Preparedness Month. Local first responders want to get the word out about how residents can better keep themselves and their families safe in the event of an emergency.

Harper Woods Director of Public Safety Vincent Smith said that knowing what risks are out there and being prepared for them can make all the difference in an emergency.

“It is important to have a plan for any of these emergencies because being unprepared, being complacent or thinking it will never happen here gets people killed or puts their families at risk,” he said in an email.

There are numerous risks that people in the southeast Michigan area should be prepared for.

“Emergencies that Harper Woods residents should prepare for include tornados, hazardous material incidents and long-term power outages,” said Smith. “Tornados are always a risk in southeast Michigan when conditions are right. I-94 transportation traffic runs through the center of Harper Woods, which poses the possibility of a chemical spill. Harper Woods is prone to power outages due to the dense tree population and antiquated power line infrastructure.”

Eastpointe Director of Public Safety George Rouhib said flooding is another common risk that local residents should ensure they are ready for.

“In the event of flooding, move all of your valuables off of your basement floor in the event your sewer backs up,” he wrote in an email. “Make sure your cell phone is fully charged. You can also purchase a charger that works with batteries. Make sure you have surge protectors on your audio equipment. Lightning can destroy equipment. Turn off your air conditioner because your compressor may also be damaged. Purchase a few extra coolers and have bags of ice on hand in the event you lose your power and your refrigerator does not function. If you keep your refrigerator door closed, it will keep your perishable goods cool for several hours.”

Smith said there are several other ways families can prepare for a disaster.

“Residents should always know to listen for their community siren warning system, have a weather radio, have media devices charged, flashlights, batteries, blankets, non-perishable food, water and medication for at least three days in the event of a power outage or tornado,” he wrote.

He also said that generators can be a huge boon in an emergency, but they need to be operated with care.

“Residents who have generators should know ahead of time where you would run a generator. Generator exhaust is toxic and can sicken or kill you,” said Smith. “Always put generators outside well away from doors, windows, and vents. Never use a generator inside a home, basement, garage, crawlspace, tent, shed, or any other indoor or enclosed area. Carbon monoxide (CO) is deadly, can build up quickly, and linger for hours.”

Rouhib said that while COVID-19 adds a new area of consideration for how to react to emergencies, the best advice people can take is to continue to follow the same guidelines that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been suggesting for the last several months and to have plenty of the relevant safety materials on hand in case people cannot purchase more.

“Follow all CDC guidelines,” Rouhib wrote. “If you wear a mask in public, sanitize, maintain social distancing, avoid crowds and stay at home when possible, you will be in good shape. Always have extra masks and sanitizer on hand. If any member of your family has reason to believe that they may have been exposed, take the necessary quarantine precautions. If you can get tested, get tested.”

A less common, but dangerous, potential emergency is the release of a hazardous material. Smith said ensuring people are informed can be the most crucial step in mitigating that particular contingency.

“In the event of a hazardous material incident, residents should look to Nixle for a community advisory, Wayne County Emergency Management web page, contact the public safety department or follow news broadcasts for directions,” he wrote.

Harper Woods’ page at can be found at

More information on Wayne County Emergency Management can be found at

In the event of a disaster, Rouhib said, the Red Cross and Salvation Army are great resources.

“The Red Cross and Salvation Army are always willing to assist,” he wrote. “Contact your local police and fire agencies. Macomb County also has a number of phone numbers to different agencies that will assist during emergencies.”

The Red Cross can be contacted by calling (800) REDCROSS. The Harper Woods Department of Public Safety can be reached at (313) 343-2530.