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Pets and Holidays

With Christmas right around the corner, gift givers are searching for that perfect gift. Holidays see an increase in pet purchases for others. Please, do not give anyone a pet unless it is agreed upon. If you do get a pet for a gift, please, research the breed and its needs/energy level/etc.. Kittens and puppies are cute but they are rambunctious, need training, and can be a poor fit for children since they are fragile, unpredictable, and have very sharp claws and teeth. Kids often do not know how to play nice with small animals and can result in injuries to either the child, the animal, or both. In addition to potential injuries, the pet might not be suited for the family, animals have a personality and should be chosen by the future owner. Purchased pets may come from breeders who may be looking at money instead of good breeding practices, training, and proper weaning potentially leading to more problems.

If you want to get someone a pet for the holidays, make sure they are prepared, consider adopting at the local shelters, and make sure that the family/person gets to pick out the pet that works best for them. Every year, pets get released, abandoned, or turned over to shelters because the owner no longer wants the pet, cannot take care of the pet, or cannot have the pet anymore. If the pet is not spayed or neutered, it can reproduce and lead to more homeless animals. Pets are a long term commitment and need training and vet care – they can be financially taxing. Instead of a puppy or kitten, consider adopting an older animal that may have had training already. The shelters can tell you more about the animals personality and what type of environment would be best for them. In addition, please teach children to properly interact with animals. Running up to strange dogs, pulling on tails, ears, and paws can result in bites to children.

A pet can be a great addition to a family and teaches children responsibility, but please, make sure everyone is on board with the animal and the right animal for that person/family is chosen to reduce the chances that the pet will end up in a shelter or abandoned.

Have a great holiday season!

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Halloween Safety Tips

Halloween is upon us and the kids are excited about getting candy! Here are some safety tips to keep the night fun:

  • Make sure your child’s costume is visible at night
  • Is the costume weather appropriate
  • Have a route in mind, and make sure children understand it
  • If you let your child go with others, have a curfew time. Ask them to check in every so often or call if plans change
  • Discard candy that has come out of the wrapper or the wrapper is damaged
  • Use sidewalks when available if walking
  • If sidewalks are not available, walk against traffic
  • Drivers – pay attention! Kids can come running out of nowhere
  • If having a party, be a responsible host and make sure everyone has a sober driver or has a place to sleep it off.
  • Be courteous to your neighbors. Have a sensible cut off time for loud music/guests
  • Have a great and safe night!
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Fire Weather

It’s that time of year again, burn ban/restrictions. This does not include the City of Carrington but one should still exercise caution when having a bonfire or other forms of burning. Now, I know the burn restrictions are not popular but it is a safety hazard for everyone involved. Land owners, other land owners, motorists if the smoke gets thick, the fire department (also a wear and tear on their trucks and gear, which isn’t cheap), etc.

We at Foster County have set our burn restrictions to “very high”, “extreme”, and “red flag days”. The temperature, humidity, amount of precipitation, and wind speed are all things that go in to determining these conditions. The link to the fire index is on the main page at fostercounty.com on the right hand side under quick links. I try to post the weather conditions to the facebook page daily as well but if I am unable to do so, they are still accessible via the quick links.

It is really dry right now and it doesn’t look like we are due for rain anytime soon so, be careful with anything flammable. This includes cigarettes. Please do not throw them out the window. Have a plastic bottle with some water in the bottom and stick them in there until you can get to a garbage can. A lot of fires are started accidently by cigarettes. Another thing to consider, even if burning is allowed and you have a fire, put it out completely before you leave it. This means wetting it down, sifting the ashes, and rewetting the ashes until there is no heat coming from them.

Please make sure you are also calling in your burns. I might seem like a pain, but what is more of a pain is when the fire department shows up to put the fire out and can charge money for it. In addition, if it is under burn ban conditions, you could be getting a visit from the Sheriff’s Office.

Lastly, we would all like to thank you for your cooperation and if you do see the emergency management vehicle out at a fire scene, know it is purely for documentation purposes. I have to document all fires per the States request. It has nothing to do with legal action or anything. I am a documenter for the state.

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Work Place Violence & Mass Shootings

In light of the recent violent events across the nation, I want to take a moment to bring up some tips to stay safe. Nothing is ever guaranteed, these are tips.

  • Situational Awareness – be aware of your surroundings at all times
  • Know your co-workers – make an effort to  get to know all of your coworkers if feasible
  • Take workplace threats seriously – turn over any information to law enforcement, even if the person saying it says they are joking or something similar
  • Bring concerns to HR immediately
  • Don’t be a jerk – seriously, be polite and respectful to everyone. Bullying doesn’t stop after high school. Treating anyone badly in the workplace is inappropriate
  • Talk to your friends –  if they are having a hard time or are being bullied, encourage them to talk to HR about it
  • “See something, say something”  or hear something, most of these mass shootings, most of the gunmen discussed plans with someone or even in online forums. Someone else usually knows about it, they just may think that the person wont go through with it
  • Review the employee handbook – update as needed
  • Plan for and discuss workplace violence at a meeting. Ensure all employees know what to look for
  • Do the doors of offices lock? Is your workplace cubicles? Is there a safe place to go? These are things to consider
  • Do any employees have their backs to the door or window? Consider shifting desk position so the employee can see who is coming and going. This goes back to situational awareness
  • For windows, look into investing in some kind of cover that blocks people from looking into the windows
  • In work places that deal with emotional or dangerous clients, ensure there is a plan in place in case they come in with a weapon

These are some tips to consider. Again, this is not a for sure way to avoid workplace violence but, some of these tips may save a life. Be careful out there and pay attention to your surroundings!

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Harvest/Hunting Season

Good afternoon, Foster County! As you all know, we have officially welcomed fall. With fall come the responsibilities and/or hobbies.It seems like every year we hear about a farming accident or a hunting death. While these things may be unavoidable at times, we can work to reduce the occurrences.

  • Pay close attention to children in/on/around heavy machinery
  • Ensure children/adults know how to behave in and around heavy machinery
  • Keep a cell phone or radio in the vehicle. This allows for communication if something happens
  • Have an expected time to contact a family member or partner, set a reminder
    • If there is no contact, this may alert someone that something has happened & to check on them
  • Avoid touching power lines – especially with farm equipment
  • Drivers should watch for slow moving vehicles that are entering/leaving the roadway
  • DO not crowd the vehicles
  • Use extreme caution when passing slow moving vehicles
  • Early mornings may be foggy, use caution when traveling
    • Always have lights on – makes for better visibility
  • Ensure drivers of semis are trained to do so
  • Obey traffic laws
  • Watch for malfunctioning equipment – there has been a fair amount of fires across the state involving fields or combines or both
  • Ensure your phone is charged before heading out

Hunting is another cause of accidental deaths/injuries. Some tips:

  • If you aren’t sure, don’t shoot
  • Muzzle awareness – never point a firearm at anything you do not intend to shoot
  • The first thing one should do when handling any firearms is to check if its loaded – then check the safety if firearm has one
  • Wear the orange – missing a deer is much better than being mistaken for one and shot at
  • Obey hunting rules/regulations
  • Avoid drinking and hunting – this is a good way to prevent accidental discharges as well as injuries/death
  • If you do plan on drinking, don’t over do it – alcohol can make you feel warmer but it does the opposite
    • It may be wise to put the firearm away (unloaded) if drinking is occuring
  • Avoid arguments with others if possible – tempers flare and it may be tempting to shoot the opposing party – please don’t
  • Obey the start/end times – staying out after can make it difficult for you to find your way back or others in your party to find you
  • If injured, get medical attention right away
  • Take hunter safety if offered
  • Ensure that you know how to operate any firearm you plan on using
  • Check if its loaded before cleaning – unload before putting firearm in vehicles
  • Clean your firearm after every use – this will reduce jamming or misfires
  • If you aren’t sure of your target, don’t shoot it – Yes, this is worth repeating
  • Let someone know where you are going and when you plan on being back
    • If plans change, let that contact know
  • Dress appropriately and in layers – better to be safe than sorry
  • Ensure your phone is charged before heading out

I hope you all have a very productive and enjoyable harvest/hunting season!

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Cyber Security/family safety

Now that school is back in session, parents are celebrating (probably) and very proud of their child(ren) as they should be. I have noticed lots of posts about kids and their school in the last few days. Something to think about though. When you post photos of your child(ren) and what school they attend and age, this is open to anyone seeing it. There are features that think we are safe from strangers seeing our photos but that really isn’t the case.

Now said stranger knows what your child(ren) look like and where they are. Its similar to posting that you are in the bahamas for a week and  your house is a target for burglary. Dont panic, there are ways you can keep your child(ren) safe. Even without social media, kidnappings still happen. Some tips to keep your family safe:

  • Try not to share photos with the school name in them
  • Avoid posting specifics about the school or your child
  • Have a family “password” – if someone attempts to pick your child up from school by using the “your parents were in an accident and they asked me to pick you up”, they can verify by asking for the “password”
  • Most schools have a policy where only the identified persons can take the child(ren) out of school – check with the school and get the people with permissions on  the list if they have one. (A trusted neighbor or another family member may be a good idea to think about)
  • Put your childs name on the inside of their clothes/backpack. It would be easy for someone with malintentions to use their name to get them to come over
  • Talk to children about “stranger danger” or if someone they know makes them feel uncomfortable.
  • Develop a safety plan for these situations – maybe a whistle to blow to attract attention and to let them know it is ok to get away from strangers or other uncomfortable situations. Its not rude, its potentially life saving
  • Talk to the kids about keeping a safe distance away from doors/windows of vehicles. This allows for conversation (someone asking for directions) but staying out of reach
  • situational awareness!

Quick story – when I was in elementary school, a dark colored van used to park next to the playground when it was recess and it would stay the duration. We never saw anyone get out or anything but, it would sit there, every day. Someone pointed the van out to the aides, who watched it for a while before calling the DARE officer (we didnt have any local police force, just the sheriff’s department. Town was too small for its own law enforcement) and having him talk to the driver of the van. It disappeared for a few months but eventually the same van came back. It took off when they saw adults. “see something, say something”. It could save a life. This could have been nothing more than someone had a child in the school and they just wanted to see them during recess but it could have been someone who wanted to cause harm.

This post isnt to scare anyone, just something to consider. Keeping families safe starts on the family level.

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Fall is approaching rapidly

Good afternoon, Foster County and company! I do apologize for the lack of activity on the blog, thank you for your patience!

Fall is approaching, most of us think of cozy sweaters, apple cider, leaves changing, and the return of football. Go Bison! Fall is a beautiful season! Some things to consider though; this is about when the kids go back to school (sighs of relief for parents, I imagine) and harvesting the fields takes place. This means additional traffic on the roads and more hazards.

Let’s talk school buses first. These are hauling precious cargo, they make frequent stops, and are out about the same time as the rest of us are either going to work or going home from work. This increases the chances for an accident. Please pay attention to the road and watch for buses.

Buses are required to stop for railroad tracks, so keep that in mind. Additionally, it is unlawful to go around a stopped school bus that has the flashing lights on and the stop sign out. It is a $50 fine and six points off your license. You could also hit a child. Both of these things are not worth not stopping for.

If you plan on passing a school bus that is in motion, make sure it is safe to do so, the road conditions are good, you are in a passing zone, and weather is not an inhibitor. Fog, snow, and heavy rain may cause visibility issues. Allow additional travel time, be patient, and keep our kids safe!

For additional information, please click:  School Bus Info from the Highway Patrol

Another thing to be on the lookout for is slow moving heavy machinery. These vehicles are usually doing under 40 and can take up most of a lane of traffic. Hills or curves may hide the hazard and it can come up fast. Slowing down and watching the road are some good tips to work to reduce accidents.

In addition, watch for trucks hauling/trucks entering signs and the trucks. Dont tailgate a semi or try to turn the same direction as it at the same time. They may not be in the turn lane because of the turning radius. Be careful when passing and only pass in passing zones. Take weather and road conditions into account. Safe travels, Foster County!

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Beat the heat!

Summer can be a great time to get outdoors in the warm weather, take the kids on a vacation, go camping, and spend time on the lake. Yes, summer is great!

The hazards of warm weather can include heat stroke, heat exhaustion, dehydration, and even death. Fortunately most of these impacts can be avoided by taking breaks if you are working outside, sitting in the shade or a cool building, drinking lots of water and eating to replace the water and electrolytes we sweat out, and recognizing the symptoms of heatstroke and heat exhaustion and getting medical attention immediately.

Below is an example of a heat waves impacts on a large scale.

Chicago, Illinois – 1995. Chicago experienced three miserable days of a heat wave – hot temperatures and high heat indices and no cool down relief at night. The temperatures reached into the high 90s and into the 100s.

Those who were affected the most were the elderly and the low income. The housing situation was part of the problem. Tall buildings hold heat, the higher up, the warmer it gets; air conditioning was limited. People did not open windows at night for fear of break ins. A majority of the elderly who perished were alone – no family/no social circle, no one to check up on them. There were power outages as well that took away the advantage of the air conditioning. Over 750 people died in this heat wave.

There is a book about it called: Heat Wave: A Social Autopsy of Disaster in Chicago

Long story short, those of you with elderly parents/relatives/friends – during the hot weather, it might not be a bad idea to check in on them and make sure they are hydrating and have a way to cool off. Same goes for small children, those with special needs, and pets/livestock.  Stay hydrated, stay cool, take frequent breaks, and keep an eye on each other.  Make a plan for an extended power outage and what to do if that happens.

Those of you who work with horses and other animals, make sure they are cooled off – sweat is dry, before giving them full access to water.  All animals should have free access to cool, clean water.  If the sidewalk/road is too hot for your  hand/foot, it is probably too hot for your dog. Mornings are good times to do strenuous activities.

Dressing for the weather can help with keeping you cool. Light weight fabrics in light colors reflect the sun’s rays, a lightweight hat with ventilation can keep your head cool and the sun off your face.

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Summer Travel Tips

If you are anything like me, you read the news everyday – to stay up to date on the ongoings of the State or even the larger cities. I have noticed a frequent accidents taking the lives of the 25 and under age group as well as the 55 and older age group. Something all these accidents have in common: seatbelt use. Sure, there are other factors; weather, alcohol/drugs, distracted drivers (on the phone, texting, composing and sending e-mails, messing around with the radio, talking to passengers or children, and falling asleep at the wheel.

Part of my job is identifying hazards to people, property, and the environment. From there, emergency managers enlist the help of subject matter experts (Law, Fire, EMS, etc.) to find ways to reduce or eliminate the impact these hazards have on people, property, and the environment. You can too. Here are some examples of both driving and destination.

1. Wear a seatbelt, every passenger every time – make sure car seats and harness are installed correctly, they fit the child, the harness is properly secured, is facing the direction best suited for the car seat, and the seat has never been in an accident – the car seat integrity has been compromised and may not withstand another accident

2. Do not drive under the influence – alcohol, drugs (prescription or otherwise), and/or if exhausted. The above can make focusing on the road difficult, slow reaction time, and may cause driver to over correct. Find a sober driver, change out drivers if driver is fatigued, and wait until your destination to take meds/drink/etc. that can impact driving abilities

3. Check travel routes before leaving for construction, closures, detours, and conditions. Slow down if conditions call for it. Stay calm and try not to escalate road rage. Make arriving at your destination safely your priority, do not pass if it is not safe to do so. If weather conditions are hindering traffic, do not attempt to pass. Pull over and wait the conditions out as needed.

4. Do not drive distracted – Pay attention to your surroundings – watch for motorcycles and other drivers. Put the phone away, have passengers deal with the radio, children, pets, etc. Do not leave kids/pets/the elderly in the car, even with the windows rolled down. Take your keys and lock the doors when you exit the vehicle.

5. When traveling with pets, keep them in a carrier – this can reduce stress and distracting behavior. Bring clean water and food for them, stop for bathroom breaks – even if it is just to stretch their legs. Do not let pets run loose – put them in a harness or collar when taking them outside.

6. If your family and/or pets are outside, check for ticks. Be thorough. When removing ticks, use tweezers to ensure the entire tick is off. If hiking, use bug spray, wear long pants and sleeves. Ticks and mosquitoes can infect humans  and animals with: Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Lyme Disease, West Nile, to name a few. For a more comprehensive list, here is a link to the CDC Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

7. Make a plan in case your kids get separated from you, make sure they have some way to get a hold of you. A neat idea I have seen popping up is having a “password” so if someone tries to tell a child to go with them because something happened to you, they know if they should go or not. ID people (police, security, etc.) that your child should ask for help from or where to find a help desk or something similar.

8. This upcoming weekend there will be fireworks and other fun activities. Be careful when letting children light fireworks/firecrackers/sparklers, around grills, fires, etc. Have a safe and enjoyable weekend!

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Disaster Planning for Businesses

Previously, we have shared some preparedness tips for individuals.  Another thing to consider is your business. Businesses can be an asset to a community when an event hits; local supplies can get a city back on its feet. It is very important to think about recovery as well. Not just for the business, but for the community as well.  Ready.gov has templates for building your own response plan. The ultimate goal is to get the business back on its feet and the more prepared a business is, the better the chance it can be up and running quickly if the damage is minimal.

Most businesses have employees. Employees keep businesses running. Why not consider developing and practicing plans for weather events such as a tornado or a blizzard to man made incidents such as an active shooter or a hacker attempting to access your data.

As mentioned earlier, there are templates available for different plans on http://www.ready.gov/ Not only is important to customize these templates to your work place, testing needs to be done and frequently. A good starting place would be to review the templates and  survey your business. Do you have a first aid kit that isn’t expired? Does your place of business have an AED – automated external defibrillator? Does anyone know CPR? Are there policies in place for severe weather? Those who commute, is there a policy in place regarding hazardous driving conditions? Does the layout of the office/building allow for situational awareness? Is there a policy in place to protect data – locking computers, even if you have to step out for a minute. Are passwords changed often? Do office doors lock? What is the policy for social media and internet not related to work?

Keep in mind, your employees may have training that could be beneficial to clients as well as personnel. Consider developing a training plan – getting a few people CPR certified, take classes/webinars/etc. for data security, develop policies to keep the business and the employees safe. Develop a tornado drill or shelter in place or an evacuation drill and practice it. The better prepared a business is, the faster the recovery may be; unless the building was completely destroyed.

Things to consider – what is most likely to impact your business. Do you need to prepare for flooding? How about Fire? A chemical spill? Active shooter? Severe storms? Consider making a list of potential incidents and develop some sort of plan to protect the employees and the business. Discuss with employees and look into training. And update that first aid kit.