Survival 101Jul 01, 2019 ● By Christine Perrenot
Tornado Alley Severe Storm at Night Time. Severe Lightnings Above Farmlands in Illinois, USA. Severe Weather Photography Collection.
Luckily for us, Frisco is known as one of the safest cities in the nation. And, regardless of what Hollywood seems to be telling us lately, there is no real threat of zombies here … guaranteed. However, with Frisco’s large population, growing infrastructure and expanding influence, it is important for newcomers and long-time residents to know what to do if they are faced with an emergency, where to go and understand resources the City of Frisco and other local facilities provide during an emergency.
What are some of the potential hazards Frisco residents need to be mindful of and prepared for? The news warns us of everything from weather and terroristic threats to medical issues, fires and car accidents. While no one wants to dwell on what could happen, it should provide your family peace of mind that there are local, valuable resources and highly-trained teams prepared to lend a helping hand in almost any kind of situation Frisco residents could encounter.
Watch the Weather
Jason Lane, the Deputy Emergency Management Coordinator for Frisco Fire, says, “If faced with an emergency, generally speaking, you are better off staying in place, if you can. The biggest hazards we face in Frisco are weather related. Here lately, we have seen a lot of that threat. New residents may not be from Tornado Alley or did not grow up here, so it is important to understand and prepare.”
Many newcomers are not accustomed to the risk of severe weather. Here in North Texas, especially in the spring and early summer months, our area is vulnerable to weather phenomenon such as hail, severe thunderstorms with lightning and tornados. In winter months, we are often faced with icy conditions that can severely impact roadways (and schedules). Mr. Lane highly-recommends Frisco residents gain access to a NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) Weather Radio that can be programmed to your specific zip code to go off when your area is impacted. If the power is out or your cellphone is dead, a NOAA radio still receives a broadcast from the National Weather Service, even if there is no electricity. He adds, “Change the batteries when the weather changes. There are also a countless number of apps to download and various local news meteorologists.”
Understanding the difference between a storm “watch” and a “warning” is also vital, either of which conditions can be issued by the National Weather Service. If the area you are in is under a watch, know that conditions are right for potential severe weather. A warning actually means a thunderstorm or tornado has been spotted and is posing a real threat to the designated warning area.
Do You Hear What I Hear?
The City of Frisco activates outdoor warning sirens when there is a threat to the area. Residents should take caution and action when sirens are heard by seeking shelter and monitoring local weather through the use of a radio, television or apps. The Outdoor Warning Siren System includes 40 sirens throughout the city that might be activated individually or in groups to provide specified warnings. Sirens may also be activated at the same time throughout the city to provide an alert for everyone. Outdoor warning sirens can be controlled from the Central Fire Station, the 911 Dispatch Center at the Police Department or from Fire Department vehicles. The Wail Signal (used for severe weather) and Alert Signal (used for other alerts, like a hazardous material incident) are both used.
“One thing that confuses folks are the outdoor warning sirens. When the siren wails, it is simply for the purpose of alerting the public that if they are outside, they need to go inside and monitor the weather. That is all it is telling you to do. Most people think if a siren goes off, it automatically means there is a tornado,” says Mr. Lane.
The Operating Room
The City of Frisco does have a high-level emergency management division with a state-of-the-art Emergency Operations Center (EOC). This team gets important information from local television channels, safety departments and weather monitoring services. Were there to be a major event, the EOC is where city directors, decision makers and staff leadership would gather to put the Emergency Management Plan (EMP) into action to protect citizens.
When the EOC staff feels there is a significant weather threat to the area, they gather to monitor local television and weather stations, radio frequencies and details from the National Weather Service. If the threat is impending, they activate outdoor warning sirens from the dispatch center.
The EOC is also activated for events at Toyota Stadium, The Star, Dr Pepper Ballpark, Dr Pepper Arena and other venues. From the EOC, professionals can monitor incidents at the location, weather threats and more. Mr. Lane says, “We keep an eye on what is going on in the city and push out bulletins for those who need to have the information. The EOC is a central hub to keep track of what’s going on and coordinate resources.”
There are also a variety of notification systems and codes City officials use to keep residents out of harm’s way. The CodeRED Emergency Notification System is used to send out emergency notifications by telephone, email and text message. CodeRED is also used to communicate general information, such as road closures, water main repairs, power interruptions, trash pickup changes and other non-life-threatening news. Even if you are not a resident and only work here in Frisco, you can provide your office or kids’ school address to receive important alerts that may impact areas you commute through. Other counties also have CodeRED, so, by signing up, you can receive alerts when you are in those areas, as well. “Residents can opt into CodeRED and choose to receive weather warnings. This is a system used to alert residents of any emergency situations occurring, like a hazardous material spill. It has even been used in the past to announce 911 outages. I encourage everyone to sign up and receive emergency updates from the city,” Mr. Lane says. Residents can register for CodeRED easily at friscotexas.gov.
Education is Key
The Frisco Fire Department has a variety of life and fire safety educational programs which are free and available to citizens of all ages. Educational opportunities include birthday parties, the Citizen’s Fire Academy, the Junior Citizen’s Fire Academy, being part of the Community Emergency Response Team, CPR/AED awareness classes, firefighter/paramedic visits, fire extinguisher safety classes, fire prevention month, Frisco Fire Safety Town and station tours. Taking advantage of these offerings can help your family develop training and background knowledge specific to Frisco.
Preparing Your "Go Bag"
It is important to plan for disasters or accidents before they occur. When preparing a disaster kit, it is important to include water, food, first aid, tools, clothing and personal/financial information your family might require after an incident. Your family’s kit or “go-bag” should be stored in an easily-accessible location that is known by all members of the family. Mr. Lane shares, “In addition to basic first aid supplies, it is a good idea for folks to have an emergency kit with helpful items in case communications are down. Also, have plans for pets. Small children and infants may need diapers and formula. If you have functional needs or prescriptions, you will need to plan to have those on hand. Shot records are also important for family members and pets. Keep copies of insurance policies, bank account numbers and pictures of belongings for insurance purposes. Keep hard copies or scan images and documents to a thumb drive so you have it handy.” It is also wise to keep a duplicate or condensed version of your disaster kit in your car.
While one can say with most certainty that we will not be faced with zombie attacks on our morning commute any time soon, better safe than sorry, right? Additional information regarding emergency preparedness in every form can be accessed at redcross.org. Access additional online tools at cdc.gov, friscotexas.gov or ready.gov.