Missourians Reconsider Disaster Preparedness

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CARROLL COUNTY - After getting flooded out during the 1993 floods, Clarence Heil doesn't take any chances. Heil, a farmer near Carrollton, said he emptied out his basement when the Missouri River rose this spring and temporarily moved to the Lake of the Ozarks. He also bought a federal flood insurance policy after the 1993 floods.

"In case the river gets high, we try to get stuff out of the basement. And we take our mower and things like that out of the machine shed and take it up to Carrollton in storage," Heil said.

Gov. Jay Nixon declared September Emergency Preparedness Month in Missouri. People in several towns said they rely heavily on the media to give them information about what is going to happen. Matthew Kelley, who lives in Boonville, said he checks the weather every morning because conditions can change so quickly. He said he has a weather radio he can take with him to his basement if a tornado comes. New Franklin resident George Wood said he stays inside his home, a semi-submerged cinder block structure, and keeps an eye on alerts during severe weather. Like Heil, Wood has flood insurance. According to FEMA, more than 26,000 homes in Missouri have flood insurance. More than 1,100 claims were filed this year.

FEMA has many tips for disaster preparedness. Disaster kits should include:
• Three-day supply of non-perishable food.
• Three-day supply of water - one gallon of water per person, per day.
• Portable, battery-powered radio or television and extra batteries.
• Flashlight and extra batteries.
• First aid kit and manual.
• Sanitation and hygiene items (moist towelettes and toilet paper).
• Matches in a waterproof container.
• Whistle.
• Extra clothing.
• Kitchen accessories and cooking utensils, including a can opener.
• Photocopies of credit and identification cards.
• Cash and coins.
• Special needs items, such as prescription medications, eye glasses, contact lens solutions, and hearing aid batteries.
• Items for infants, if needed, such as formula, diapers, bottles, and pacifiers.
• Other items to meet your unique family needs.

Not only does FEMA recommend having supplies, but they also recommend planning what to do in case of disasters. These include having a plan for communicating in case cell networks are down and knowing where to go if you need to evacuate.

Cody Spencer, a Boonville resident who volunteered in Joplin after the tornado there, said he hasn't spent much time on preparedness in the past but plans to do so in the future.

"Working in Joplin and seeing the destruction every day, it really kind of makes a person want to be prepared. It's a real life changing experience to go down there and see what those people down there have gone through," he said.

Clarence Heil didn't get flooded out this time. He said floodwaters filled a ditch next to his house and submerged several nearby farm fields, but his property was left untouched. Even so, he left a piece of advice for the very groups who advocate disaster preparedness.

"I hope the (Army) Corps of Engineers will understand that they need to empty these reservoirs when our river is a little lower than wait till it gets high and then start releasing."