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Road Issues & Accidents

Recently, a friend of mine was killed in a motorcycle accident. This prompted me to think about a few things:

1. The distracted drivers, aggressive drivers, and the inattentive drivers

2. Motorcycles and others on the road

3. Weather Conditions and other hazards

I bring up the recent death of my friend because it brought the accident to my world – more personal if you will and it brings up some issues that we see on the road every day.

  • Any time we get behind the wheel, we are responsible for our actions
  • Talking, texting, eating, grooming, and other activities that take our attention off the road is dangerous not only to ourselves and our passengers, but to others on the road
  • WIth the nicer weather, we see more people on alternative forms of transportation – motorcycles, golf carts, 4-wheelers, cyclists, people on roller blades, skate boarders, and people out walking or running
  • If you notice dangerous behavior behind the wheel by an elderly relative, it might be time to have a talk with them about alternate forms of transportation (bus, shuttle, etc.)
  • It is not just bad weather that can hinder driving – Bright sunlight can make objects harder to see
  • Stop signs and yield signs are not optional – check both ways before proceeding
  • Keep the reckless driving off the road – same with road rage. Report aggressive drivers
  • Pull over at a well lit place to rest, take a call, text, look up directions, or to eat that burrito that takes two hands
  • Look closely for motorcycles and other types of smaller vehicles – we all have a responsibility to know what is going on around us
  • Don’t drink and drive – have a sober driver
  • Lights on for safety
  • School is out, watch for more pedestrian activity and people/pets darting out on residential roads
  • Talk to your children about looking both ways before crossing the road
  • Invest in good sunglasses – there are now glasses that make it easier to see at night
  • Buckle up – we all know of people who have survived because they weren’t wearing a seatbelt but, that is not the norm
  • Report dangerous or inattentive drivers
  • Maintain a safe following distance

You may wonder what the above has to do with emergency management, there is a link. An accident with a truck or train hauling hazardous material can impact more than just those involved. Anhydrous trailers and other forms of fertilizer are out and about on our roads, situational awareness on all drivers may help prevent or minimize accidents with farm equipment/trailers. This keeps our emergency responders out of danger, keeps traffic moving, and may help get everyone to their destination

So, this summer, lets try to keep Foster County safe and keep your family safe when traveling. Be aware of what is around you, buckle up, and don’t text and drive.

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More travel tips

Many of you may wonder why I post earthquake safety tips and other tips for hazards that are not in North Dakota. I promise there is a good reason for this. Summer is a popular season to travel around the country or even the globe. Disasters can happen at any time and being away from home qualifies travels are a “vulnerable population”. Locals know what the hazards are and where to go for safety but travelers do not usually have this information. In some areas that get tsunamis, the locals know when the ocean starts doing weird things, it is time to get out and away.

Some safety tips for traveling:

  • Take the time to do a bit of research on where you are headed – even if its just a few states over – take a look at what the potential hazards are and plan accordingly
  • Ask hotel/guest services where safe places are – tornado shelters, what to do in case of an earthquake or hurricane, etc.
  • Make sure you have forms of identification with you at all times – and that children know phone numbers
  • If possible, have a charger – like the ones that can store power – in case of a large outage
  • Texts get through better than phone calls – send a text to family and save the phone lines for emergency personnel
  • Keep your gas tank above half a tank – you just never know
  • If an evacuation order is given, take it seriously

That is all for this lovely Friday. Stay safe and enjoy the weather!

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Storm Season

Storm season is officially upon us. June happens to be Lightning and wildfire safety month. Emergency Management is going to provide some information on lightning and general storm preparedness.

Contrary to popular belief, lightning can strike the same place twice. Multiple times, really. One has to wonder how many times the Eiffel Tower has been struck, or skyscrapers, lakes, and the list goes on.

There are different types of lightning – Cloud to ground and cloud to cloud. Cloud to ground lightning is generally the lightning that strikes to any object in its path.

Lightning can strike before and after a thunderstorm has rolled through the area. If you see lightning, seek shelter immediately and wait about 30 minutes after the storm has passed before resuming activities outdoors.

A person can survive a lightning strike, there are potential symptoms a person struck by lightning may exhibit:

  • Memory loss
  • Dizziness
  •  Numbness
  • Weakness
  • Other symptoms may occur in addition to or in place of the above mentioned

The age old of counting after seeing a flash of lightning has merit. A lightning flash with a five second delay is approx. a mile away. For every five increment, add a mile (i.e. Lightning flashes and you count to 15 before hearing the thunder would mean the lightning is approx. 3 miles away)

Safety Tips:

  • Seek shelter immediately during a thunderstorm
  • If out on a lake, get back to shore and seek shelter – it is possible to be hit by lightning while on a boat
  • Always check the forecast before heading out – weather does change rapidly and a storm that was not predicted may arise – be aware and be prepared
  • Stay away from metal objects and landline telephones
  • Do NOT seek shelter under a tree
  • Lightning strikes have a radius of about 60 feet or less around the point of impact
  • If camping, move tent to a lower location if possible if shelter is unavailable – be aware of rainfall and the possibility for flash flooding

More tips and facts throughout the month! Stay safe and plan ahead!

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Hazardous Materials in the Home

Now that the kids are out of school, and spending more time at home, consider taking a look under your sink/in closets/garage, wherever you keep your cleaning chemicals. Most cleaning agents are not safe for children to be around but come in fun colors. Window cleaner, dish soap, laundry detergent pods, Comet (remember the revised jingle with this one?)

Did you know that some chemicals cannot be mixed or even stored together? Ammonia + bleach = potential lethal fumes; actually, bleach mixed with other cleaning agents is just not a good idea. Antifreeze comes in a lot of neat colors but is toxic to humans as well as animals. Drain cleaners can lead to chemical burns or toxic fumes, mothballs (does anyone still use these?), and believe it or not, windsheild washer fluid – which is toxic to drink or get on skin as it can be absorbed through contact with skin. Hydrogen Peroxide mixed with cleaners with Sulfuric Acid in them can result in an explosion.

So, now we know what could happen if kids or pets get into the cleaners, how can we prevent either from playing with them or attempting to drink them? Here are some tips:

  • Cupboard locks – works with kids and pets – my cat has figured out how to open cupboards, nothing is safe
  • Place cleaning materials on a high shelf
  • Ensure caps are on tight and there are no dripping cleaning fluids
  • Lock cleaning materials up
  • If a spill occurs, clean up immediately, do not let baby or pet get into the spill
  • Some items are garage items – store on a shelf, tighten the lids
    • Vehicles leak occasionally. If you notice a spill, clean it up with the recommended cleaner – this also saves on garage flooring
  • If children or pets exhibit behaviours and you can find what they took, call poison control – they will be able to give you better instructions or take the bottle with to the ER or the Vet
  • Natural products can be lethal as well
  • Plants can be great to keep pests away but can also be toxic to children and pets
  • Pool chemicals should never be used by children – read instructions carefully – too much chlorine can result in chemical burns
  • Outdated chemicals or corroded cans should be disposed of properly and replaced

Kids and pets get into everything and it isn’t always possible to see what they are getting into at all times. By taking precautions, you reduce the likelihood of an accidental poisoning.  Stay safe and enjoy the summer!

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Memorial Day

Memorial Day weekend is usually a chance for an extended weekend, having an additional day off, going camping, fishing, hiking, grilling, going to the massive amounts of sales, and other fun activities. Let’s not forget what Memorial Day really means.

As Americans, we have freedoms. A lot of freedoms. Freedom of speech, the right to bear arms, being able to vote, not having to worry about an oppressive and violent leader, and the ability to protest things we think need to be changed. We have our Armed Forces to thank for our many freedoms. Please keep our servicemen, past and present, in mind. Take a minute to thank them whether it’s a family member, a friend, a colleague, or a memorial of a fallen servicemember. These brave men and women are out there protecting us and those who don’t have a voice. Many have given the ultimate sacrifice for you and I.

Now, it is nice to have an extended weekend and do fun things with families. Here are some safety tips for this weekend:

  • There will be a large amount of traffic on the roads, please be courteous and forgiving – road rage solves nothing and can end with tragic results
  • I wish this went without saying – Do not drink and drive. Have a designated driver – take one for the team and make sure everyone gets to their destination safely
  • Buckle up – this eliminates the chance for a seatbelt violation. Accidents happen, no matter how good of driver you are. Let’s give our responders a break by being safe and responsible and try to minimize injuries in an event of an accident
  • Watch for construction – if you are traveling, in state or out of state, check the Department of Transportation website for that state (those states). Usually the DOT posts where construction is. Plan your routes around if possible
  • Slow down in construction zones – Construction crews want to go home to their families
  • If you can, move over for emergency vehicles on the side of the road  – in some states, this is a law
  • Fireworks – Be careful with letting children and intoxicated people handle and set off fireworks
  • Boating – Sober driver, please. Life vests should be worn or at least on the boat. Children should always wear a life jacket that fits properly
  • Watch out for others using the water
  • Be aware of the weather – those of you sticking around, we have a good chance for thunderstorms on Monday. Even if it looks like a nice day, that doesnt mean it will stay that way. Locate shelter before you set off for your activities
    •  Anyone remember a few years ago the 90 mph straightline winds, the heavy rain, the hail, and the impressive light/sound show mother nature set off in Fargo a few Memorial Days ago (2011 Ithink)? that came out of nowhere
  • If you hear tornado sirens or a weather alert via cellular device, get out of the water and into a solid building or shelter
  • We all know it is kind of fun watching storms roll through. Be careful and in the event of a tornado, seek shelter in a basement or tornado shelter if available
  • If fire is involved, check with local officials if fire will be allowed. Some places prohibit burning in certain conditions
    • Please watch children and intoxicated people – especially if around water

Have an excellent Memorial Day weekend and stay safe, wherever you are!

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Cyber Security

As promised, here are some tips to keep you and your information safe and to know what to look for. Please keep these in mind if you have elderly loved ones who have a computer or a smart phone.

The internet is great! Cat videos and tutorials on how to do pretty much anything under the sun. The internet provides us with a large amount of information on any subject. Unfortunately, not everything we read on the internet is true and those banners, hate to tell you, you are not the “1 millionth visitor” to the site and that e-mail you got from someone overseas claiming you are a long lost relative about to receive a lot of money is a scam – an older scam but apparently still in circulation. Clicking on these links or downloading items or giving your bank information can have consequences ranging from a virus to someone accessing your computer or sites that are masquerading as a legitimate websites asking for your login information. What you post on Facebook can stay cached forever. Information posted about military flights, deployments, etc. can jeapordize our troops. Putting your vacation plans online can get your house broken into.

Some tips for safe internet surfing and keeping your computer secure:

  • Password protect your computer
    • Change this often
    • Should not be easy – suggest using numbers, letters, and symbols
    • Lock your computer when you step away from it (in the work place)
    • Do not autosave your passwords – its easy and tempting but if anyone got into your computer, there goes your bank account, or your facebook account
    • Use antivirus software that is up to date. Scan often
    • Use popup blockers on your browser – it should be in options or settings
  • Social media sites
    • Don’t save your passwords
    • Be careful with how much information you put online
    • Have facebook notify you whenever you are tagged in a photo or a status
    • If you wouldn’t want your grandma to see the photos you are posting, don’t post them – what happens online can stay online for a very long time and it is difficult to remove
    • Do NOT put sensitive information online – of course you’re excited to see your family member who is coming back from a deployment or happy that your spouse made it back from a dangerous profession, or that you are going to Maui next week. Keep the details off the internet – you never know who is looking at your information
    • Be careful clicking on ads or links or photos – hover over the link, it if looks like it goes elsewhere, do not click on it
    • Suggestion: do not post negative things about your job or potential job. It seems employers are checking these things
    • Monitor your children and if needed an elderly relative internet usage – try to do so without asking for passwords and login names. You want to check in, not snoop.
    • If your child is chatting online with people – be watchful for changes in your child’s behavior
  • e-Mail
    • You are not the heir (probably) to a fortune in another country (unless you really are but for most of us, its a scam). Do not send them any information, especially bank information, social security numbers, etc.
    • Establishments will not ask for your login information via e-mail – do not put your information in
    • Do not open attachments or links from unknown senders. If you an e-mail from a friend or family that doesnt sound like something they would say, call before clicking
  • Some rules for the work place
    • Watch what you do, your employer probably is
    • Do not click links that look suspicious
    • Lock your computer when you step away, even if its just a restroom break
    • Maintain a level of professionalism if you use social media – be careful putting information online, some work information could be considered sensitive
    • Common courtesy would dictate that you do not post mean or rude things about co-workers of your boss

These are just some tips for safety and security. Another thing to keep in mind – keep your antivirus software up to date and scan often.

Thank you everyone for taking a look at this.

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Weather and Fire Ban information

What a weekend, Foster County! We had sun, rain, wind, thunderstorms, freezing rain, and snow. If you have any damages, flooding, or loss of livestock, please let us know. The documentation goes up to the state as statistics and dollar amounts. The state gathers this info from the other counties and if it meets the threshold, the Governor can ask for a declaration. It is majorly important that this information gets to me. Your damages matter.

About the Fire Ban:

State radio takes the 911 calls – calls from passersbys who see fire and call 911 – dispatch then notifies the fire department or the county, and if needed, the fire department gets paged out. I go out later and map out the areas and take photos but not for legal purposes. I update State Radio so the fire department doesn’t have to take valuable time calling up when they are on scene. I update State Radio via website or call in, or both. The location and the progress gets sent up to State Radio so, if a passerby calls the fire in, State Radio knows its under control and doesn’t have to page out the fire department for fires that have been previously identified and dealt with. It also shows that extent and if more resources are needed if a burn got too big for one fire department.

I do the same thing for flood damage, wind damage, hail damage, etc. None of it is for legal purposes. I do not have the authority to turn anyone over to the State’s Attorney. I am not law enforcement, my purpose is to go out and get the documentation that the state needs for damage assessments.Not to call in fires or report people. I notify the sheriffs department because all incidents (fires, floods, etc.) get sent up the chain of command. The communication flows upwards and downwards so all are aware of what is going on, situational awareness, not a search for those who may be violating the law. My concern isn’t about burning illegally, its about the safety of our emergency responders.

Since there was a fire emergency declared by the Governor, documenting all fires during that time was necessary. I sent up the fires that were allowable to the Sheriff’s Department and State Radio just so they were aware and know not to dispatch the fire department unless the supervising party called and requested it.

Long story short, if the fire department was paged out, I went out and took photos and location for damage assessment purposes. If it was a burning allowed day, I still sent up location and notified the Sheriff’s Department and the fire department. If the Sheriff’s Department got the call, I was notified and sent the information down to the fire department and State Radio so the fire department didn’t get paged out for a controlled burn on allowable days.

I hope this clears up the reason why I was out. I assure you, it was not to call in and report people. Just gathering documentation for the State for damages.

For future burn bans, we will make sure to get the word out better and in more detail.

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Emergency Management Office Updates

It has been a busy couple of weeks! So far, emergency management has submitted three grants for the homeland security grant.

  • Security wall with ballistic resistant glass for the Sheriff’s Office
  • Surveillance Systems for: The airport, the water plant, and the armory
  • A metal detector for the court room

EMS has submitted a grant for an upgrade in security for the hospital, a retrofit to the decommissioned ambulance into a CBRNE (chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and explosives) to enhance the fire departments abilities, and mask refitting.

These grants do not have a cost share, that means that the DHS will cover the whole cost. No guarantees that we will get these projects but, its good to identify what is needed and to go for it when there is little to no cost share. Not all grants are this way, a lot of them have a cost share, where the city or the county will pay a certain amount towards the project.

In addition to the grants, emergency management also sends information up to the state for existing projects or FEMA work. We keep track of expenses and compile them into the quarterly reports, which allows for a 50% reimbursement for the county and the status reports lets the state know that work is being done and what we are working on.

Emergency Management has ordered an outdoor early warning siren for Lake Juanita. The funds for the siren come from the 911 account, there is no additional costs for the county aside from maintenance. This siren, like the sirens in the city, will be tested monthly from 01 May through September. The sirens are tested on the first Tuesday of the month around 1:00 PM. Sirens will not be tested if bad weather is predicted for that day. There will be no make up test days. The sirens will not be used as an all clear. Stay tuned to local media for weather updates and conditions.

Foster County now has IPAWS (emergency alert system) capabilities. What this means, is that if there is a large event, we can send out an alert that will go through the National Weather Service, radio, television, smart phones, etc. Unlike Code RED, IPAWS is geographical instead of self-enrollment. We still encourage you to sign up for Code RED as IPAWS has very strict guidelines on when and how to use it.

Foster County now has a Public Information Officer. Bonnie from Public Health will be the contact for certain events. We will have a designated location for her to go for media and the public who want information. This site will be away from the scene to keep everyone safe and to ensure that there is nothing blocking the emergency responders or their vehicles.

Last but not least – Foster County Multi-Hazard Mitigation Plan is up at the state for review. After the state reviews it, we either get the plan back to revise with the states comments or it goes up to FEMA for their review. FEMA either sends it back with suggested revisions or approves it. Once the plan is FEMA approved, the county and participating jurisdictions must adopt the plan. Once that is done, the plan is in place and allows the County and cities to be eligible for Federal Funds. The plan needs to be updated every five years but FEMA suggests yearly updates.


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Severe Summer Weather Awareness

It is finally starting to warm up, the grass is getting green, and school is a month or so from getting out. Seems like the perfect time to be outdoors! It is, but its time to think about hazardous summer weather like: tornados, hail storms, high winds, heavy rain, thunderstorms, and heat related injuries.

Being on the water in this beautiful season known as summer, what could be better? Storms can have little advanced notice and a lake is not a great place to have electronics with you. Some tips: Check the forecast before you head out on the water, develop a plan in case of bad weather, and visually monitor the weather throughout the day. If the sky gets really dark or the wind changes dramatically, or the temperature drops rapidly, those are all signs to start heading back to shore. It could be nothing, it could be a severe thunderstorm.

Some things to think about before heading out:

  • Does the facility/location have an outdoor early warning siren?
  • Does the facility offer shelter in case of bad weather
  • Does your phone get reception at this facility
  • Did you bring a radio, even if it is just for the beach or cabin

These are ways to get notified and find shelter that you have pre-determined so if the weather gets severe fast, you will know have a plan and a spot or two to go to in case of high winds, tornadoes, or hail.

I will post more throughout the week about severe summer weather. Please feel free to leave your stories and tips. Thank you!