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Written by John Dwyer   
Tuesday, 23 June 2015 07:35

“When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors” is Focus
of Lightning Safety Awareness Week June 21-27

NWS, emergency management officials seek to save lives, prevent injuries

SPRINGFIELD – Recent thunderstorms have produced spectacular lightning shows, but the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA), the National Weather Service (NWS) and local emergency management agencies are urging people to stay safe by heading indoors during storms as part of Lightning Safety Awareness Week June 21-27.

“There’s no safe place outdoors when lightning is in the area,” said IEMA Director James K. Joseph. “If you’re close enough to hear thunder, you’re close enough to be struck by lightning. That first clap of thunder is your cue to get into a substantial building or hard-topped vehicle.”

Joseph said remembering the phrase, “When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors,” can help you stay safe this summer while you’re enjoying outdoor activities.  The catchy phrase is intended to remind people that hearing thunder means you’re close enough to the storm to be struck by lightning. Once inside a structure or hard-topped vehicle, stay there until 30 minutes after the last sound of thunder.

According to the NWS, there were no lightning-related fatalities in Illinois in 2014. Nationwide, 26 people were killed by lightning. Most of those fatalities occurred outdoors, including people in open areas, under trees, working, in water or participating in other outdoor activities.

“While lightning fatalities have decreased significantly nationwide over the past two decades, far too many people still take unnecessary risks when thunderstorms are in the area,” said Chris Miller, warning coordination meteorologist with the NWS in Lincoln. "Every year, hundreds of people survive lightning strikes. However, many of these people are forced to cope with life-long neurological problems from their injuries. The best advice to prevent a lightning strike continues to be: When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors.”

While less than 10 percent of people who are struck by lightning are killed, many lightning strike survivors suffer various degrees of disability.  Only a few lightning strike victims actually suffer burns, and these are usually minor.  However, many lightning strike survivors are left with debilitating life-long effects, including memory loss, personality changes, fatigue, irreparable nerve damage, chronic pain and/or headaches, difficulty sleeping and dizziness.

IEMA and the NWS offer the following tips for staying safe when thunderstorms approach:      

Outdoor lightning safety tips:
• No place outside is safe when thunderstorms are in the area.
• If you hear thunder, lightning is close enough to strike you.
• When you hear thunder, immediately move to a safe shelter.
• Safe shelter is a substantial building or inside an enclosed, hard-topped vehicle.
• Stay in the safe shelter at least 30 minutes after you hear the last clap of thunder.

If there is no safe shelter anywhere nearby:
• Seek lower elevation areas.
• Never use a tree for shelter.
• Immediately get out and away from pools, lakes and other bodies of water.
• Stay away from all metallic objects (fences, power lines, poles, etc.).
• Do not raise umbrellas or golf clubs above you.

People shouldn’t hesitate to help someone who has been struck by lightning since victims do not carry an electrical charge.  The surge of electricity through a lightning victim’s body causes cardiac arrest in most fatalities, so immediate medical attention is critical.  If the victim doesn’t have a pulse and isn’t breathing, CPR should be administered immediately. 

For additional tips on lightning safety visit the Ready Illinois website at www.Ready.Illinois.gov or contact IEMA at 217-785-9925.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 23 June 2015 07:39
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Written by John Dwyer   
Monday, 01 June 2015 13:46

IEMA Encourages Vacation Emergency Preparedness 

Offers tips for safe vacations 

SPRINGFIELD – Sunscreen, check. Golf clubs, check. Emergency plan? If your summer vacation checklist doesn’t include emergency preparedness, the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) encourages you to add this important step to your planning process. Throughout June, IEMA and local emergency agencies across Illinois will promote vacation preparedness to encourage safe travels.

“A disaster can happen anytime, even while you’re on vacation,” said IEMA Director James K. Joseph. “At home, you likely know what to do to stay safe. But in an unfamiliar setting, you and your family could be more vulnerable to harm. We’re encouraging vacationers to take a few minutes to learn about potential hazards and how to stay safe if disaster strikes.”

Joseph said people traveling to another region of the country or overseas should learn about natural and man-made hazards for the area they plan to visit. Information about unfamiliar hazards, such as hurricanes, tsunamis or earthquakes, is available at www.Ready.gov.

Even if your vacation spot is prone to dangers you’re familiar with, such as tornadoes and severe thunderstorms, dealing with those emergencies can be challenging in a new environment. 

When you arrive at your destination, identify safe locations for severe weather and find out how emergency warnings are communicated in the area, such as outdoor warning sirens or a public address system. If you have a newer smartphone, check to ensure the ‘Emergency Alerts’ option is enabled in your ‘Settings’ notification center.  This will allow you to receive geographically-targeted, text-like Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) messages about imminent safety threats in your current location.

To help travelers prepare for vacation, IEMA offers the following tips:

Before you leave

• Pack a travel-size emergency supply kit with water, snacks, a first-aid kit, flashlight, small battery-operated radio, extra batteries and an emergency contact card with names and phone numbers.
• Pack extra supplies of critical items, such as prescription medications and baby formula, in case your return is delayed by a disaster.
• Let family and friends know your itinerary and how to reach you.
• Make sure everyone has the cell phone numbers of others in your group.  Designate an out-of-area person to contact in case your group is separated during an emergency and local phone lines are overloaded.
• If traveling internationally, register with the U.S. Department of State through a free online service at https://travelregistration.state.gov/ibrs/ui/.  The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) enables the State Department to better assist U.S. travelers in an emergency.

During your trip

• If traveling by car, check the forecast for your entire route before and during your trip. 
• Bring along a travel weather radio, which will automatically switch to the weather radio station closest to your travel area and alert you to local weather warnings.
• Become familiar with the names of the counties you are traveling through because weather warnings are issued by county.

If disaster strikes your vacation spot, you can register on the American Red Cross’ “Safe and Well” website at www.safeandwell.org so family and friends will know that you are safe.

More preparedness information is available on the Ready Illinois website at www.Ready.Illinois.gov

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Written by John Dwyer   
Thursday, 07 May 2015 14:08

IEMA Helps Schools Remove Unused Radioactive Materials

Program enables schools to avoid costly disposal costs and ensure student safety

SPRINGFIELD -- More than 60 Illinois schools already have benefitted from a state program that helps schools safely remove unused radioactive materials at no cost. The Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) is encouraging other schools to check for similar materials in storage closets and laboratories and to contact IEMA about collection and disposal.

“We believe there are many more schools in Illinois that could benefit from this program,” said IEMA Director James K. Joseph. “Some of them may be unaware they have old radioactive materials tucked away in labs or storage closets. We have the expertise and equipment to safely remove these materials from schools and prevent students and faculty from unnecessary exposure to radiation.”

Types of radioactive materials found in schools are chemical compounds containing uranium or thorium and small solid sealed sources. This material is commonly used in chemistry, physics, and earth science experiments to demonstrate the physical and chemical properties of radioactive material.

The school initiative was created in 2005 as part of IEMA’s Orphan Source Recovery Program, in which the agency collects unwanted or abandoned radioactive materials throughout the state. These “orphan sources” are radioactive materials that have been abandoned, found or entered the commerce of scrap material without being able to identify its origin. These materials may pose a threat to public health and safety or potential impacts to the environment.

There is no cost to schools for IEMA’s removal of the materials.  A school not using IEMA’s program could pay more than $1,000 for disposal of the material.  In addition, a spill of the materials at the school could create extra expenses for cleanup activities. 

Once the radioactive material is collected by IEMA, it is securely stored until enough material is collected to make disposal economical. Disposal costs are covered by a federal grant.

IEMA recently assisted LaSalle-Peru Township High School with removal of radioactive teaching kits from the 1960s that were stored in old cabinets.

“I cannot say enough for IEMA’s program to remove unused or unwanted radioactive sources from schools,” said LaSalle-Peru Township High School Superintendent Steven Wrobleski. “The agency responded immediately and sent a field rep to our high school to test and remove the materials at no cost to the district. They were great to work with and saved us thousands of dollars by not having to hire a private firm. This is a great example of our state government working to help schools!”

Any schools with unwanted radioactive materials can contact IEMA at (217) 558-5135 for more information about the Orphan Source Recovery Program School Initiative.

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Written by John Dwyer   
Monday, 04 May 2015 09:28

Emergency Preparedness Important for People
with Disabilities and Functional Needs

Ready Illinois website offers preparedness tips for people, caregivers

SPRINGFIELD – While every home should have a disaster preparedness kit and family communications plan, emergency preparedness is particularly important for households with members who have disabilities, functional needs or may need assistance during an emergency.

Throughout May, the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) will highlight information and tips to help people and their caregivers be better prepared for emergencies.

“An ice storm, tornado or other disaster can leave people without power, heat or water for several days,” said IEMA Director James K. Joseph. “For those who may need some type of assistance, these conditions can be even more dangerous if they aren’t prepared.”

Joseph said the Ready Illinois website (www.Ready.Illinois.gov) offers preparedness information for people with visual, cognitive or mobility impairments; people who are deaf or hard of hearing; those who utilize service animals or life support systems; and senior citizens.

The Ready Illinois website also includes more than two dozen preparedness videos in American Sign Language (ASL) with full captioning. ASL is a natural, visual, non-spoken language extensively used within and among the deaf community.

The videos cover such topics as how to make a household emergency plan, build an emergency supply kit, plan for evacuation and sheltering in place and preparedness for specific hazards, such as tornadoes, severe storms and floods.

In addition to the Ready Illinois website, preparedness tips for people with access and functional needs will be highlighted throughout May at www.facebook.com/ReadyIllinois and at twitter.com/ReadyIllinois.

Last Updated on Monday, 04 May 2015 09:30
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Written by John Dwyer   
Wednesday, 22 April 2015 15:00

Emergency Management Officials Launch Weather Alert Radio Contest

‘Weather Alert Radios Save Lives’ contest promotes awareness;
100 radios to be awarded

SPRINGFIELD – The recent devastating tornadoes in northern Illinois were a heartbreaking reminder of the tornado risk in Illinois. To increase awareness and use of an important severe weather alerting tool, the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) and the Illinois Emergency Services Management Association (IESMA) today launched an online quiz for a chance to win a weather alert radio.

The ‘Weather Alert Radios Save Lives’ contest is available on the Ready Illinois website at www.Ready.Illinois.gov. The contest will run from April 22 – May 22. This is the third time IEMA and IESMA have sponsored the statewide contest.

“It’s important for people to have multiple ways to receive severe weather warnings, particularly at night when most of us are sleeping,” said IEMA Director James K. Joseph. “Weather alert radios will sound a tone when a warning has been issued for your area and give you information about the approaching hazard. Similar to a smoke alarm or carbon monoxide detector, a weather alert radio can give you precious time to take safety precautions.”

A total of 100 weather alert radios will be awarded to participants who register after reading information about the radios and successfully completing a five-question quiz. Winners will be announced in late May. The radios were purchased by IESMA as part of an effort to increase the use of the devices in communities throughout Illinois.

“IESMA is excited to team up with IEMA for this valuable awareness contest,” said IESMA President Kevin Sargent. “Each region of the state is affected by some type of extreme weather each year. This year is no exception with the tornado outbreak in central and northern Illinois earlier this month. IESMA believes many lives are saved each year by people being able to receive severe weather warnings from NOAA weather alert radios. Please take time to participate in this contest for a chance to win one of 100 weather alert radios to be given away.”

The National Weather Service (NWS) and state and local emergency management officials encourage individuals and businesses to have a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio All Hazards with battery backup, a tone-alert feature and Specific Area Message Encoding (SAME) technology, which allows the radio to be programmed to receive alerts for specified counties.  When an alert is issued for that area, the device will sound a warning alarm tone followed by the broadcast message.

Besides weather information, the NWS also broadcasts warnings and post-event information for all types of hazards, including natural, environmental and public safety hazards, such as earthquakes, chemical spills and AMBER alerts.

More information about severe weather preparedness also is available at www.Ready.Illinois.gov

Last Updated on Wednesday, 22 April 2015 15:01

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