Leaders from state and local emergency planning departments want the public to know that it’s never too early to start thinking about spring disaster planning.
The Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Illinois Department of Insurance, Illinois Emergency Management Agency, and the Grundy County Emergency Management Agency are encouraging people to ‘Resolve to be Ready’ for emergencies in 2020.
The National Weather Service suggests that abnormally moist ground conditions and unseasonably higher river levels in the upper Midwest could lead to a considerable risk for repeat flooding this spring. With this in mind, state officials are encouraging Illinois residents to consider flood insurance before the next flood occurs.
“Anywhere it rains, it can flood. You do not have to live in a river community to experience the devastating effects of flooding,” said Acting IEMA Director Alicia Tate-Nadeau. “What is important to remember about flood insurance is that this policy takes 30 days to take effect. That is why it is important to purchase and review your plan today in order to protect your family for the future.”
River flooding in Illinois in 2019 affected 33 counties, impacting 2.1 million residents. While FEMA denied the state’s request for individual assistance to help residents get back on their feet following this historic disaster, the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) has provided more than $19.7 million to Illinois homeowners who submitted flood insurance claims.
But floods aren’t the only natural disasters residents should be concerned with as the countdown to spring begins.
“Most commonly we are faced with similar hazards as most of the Midwest, which is weather,” said Grundy County EMA director Joe Schroeder. “Anything from severe thunderstorms, tornadoes, and flooding to extreme cold and blizzard like conditions. However, we do recognize and prepare and plan for technological and manmade hazards for our area as well.”
Schroeder said the number one thing anyone can do is prepare and have a plan.
“It is entirely possible to prepare by purchasing small items to build your supply kit in small increments and, in many cases, it is a matter of gathering things together that one already has in their own home and locating them in one easily accessible location,” he said. “Most importantly, remember to have situational awareness. For example, if severe weather is your threat for the day, have an increased awareness of the weather forecasts and rapidly changing conditions.”
Schroeder said low lying areas face the largest flood risk, but flooding can be difficult to predict due to tiling of fields and other landscape changes that can affect those areas.
“Water follows path of least resistance, therefore it is a very fluid situation especially given flash flooding or water ponding conditions,” Schroeder said. “Heed the watches, advisories and warnings in water conditions. Keep advised of forecasts and rapidly changing conditions. Turn around, don’t drown.”
Schroeder said the number one thing for everyone to consider is that awareness saves lives.
“I wish everyone started their daily routine with an awareness of the day,” he said. “There are many apps and avenues to receive this information in a timely matter at your fingertips. Just incorporate these in your daily ‘awareness’ routine. Every disaster that has ever occurred, occurred on any given day.”
The Grundy County EMA has a free interactive app, available on Android and Apple operating platforms. This app sends push notifications of alerts and emergency information directly to your wireless device.
Also available with the app are preparedness topics, important area preparedness information links, contact information for many Grundy County Departments, and current weather including a view of local radar.
Grundy County has had an app available since 2015, which was in development during the occurrence of the Coal City tornado in June of that year. Grundy was one of the first counties in Illinois to develop an EMA app.
Grundy County EMA also offers NIXLE Alerts, which sends alerts to your wireless devices via text and e-mail to alert the public of urgent situations, emergency instructions and community information.
Residents can sign up to NIXLE at local.nixle.com/register or text their zip code to 888777.
“Resolve to be Ready in 2020 by initiating these 3 steps: Be Aware, Be Prepared, Have A Plan!” Schroeder said.
Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) can help residents determine if property is located in a high-risk or a moderate- to low-risk area. These maps can be found online at msc.fema.gov. Additional questions can be directed to a FEMA mapping specialist toll free at 1-877-336-2627.