WOODSTOCK – McHenry County residents got a lesson in disaster preparedness Monday from one of the county's top emergency management officials.
David Christensen, the director of the McHenry County Emergency Management Agency, spoke to about twenty people at the University of Illinois Extension in Woodstock about steps individuals can take to prepare for ice storms, tornadoes, wind storms and other dangerous weather.
The presentation detailed some common safety measures, such as preparing a “go kit” in case you need to leave your house, and practicing a family evacuation plan.
But Christensen outlined some lesser known strategies like texting instead of calling when phone lines are jammed, taking photographs of official documents such as social security numbers and drivers licenses, and having multiple routes out of town in case there is a traffic emergency.
Christensen stressed the importance of being prepared before a disaster strikes.
“A disaster will happen,” he said. “You are the best person to save or protect your life.”
Along with explaining how to prepare for a disaster, Christensen detailed how the McHenry County EMA will serve the community when dangerous weather strikes.
Before working with the McHenry County Emergency Management, Christensen worked with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). He spent 2004 dealing with the four hurricanes that hit Florida and helped people in 2005 who were hit by hurricane Katrina.
FEMA was declared as heroes in 2004 and was blasted in the media by how it dealt Katrina in 2005. The difference, according to Christensen, was the local EMA response.
“How does an agency that handled four hurricanes the year before be looked at so highly, and the very next year be looked at so low? I'm here to tell you, it's us locals that make the difference.”
Christensen said the biggest disaster threat now is ice storms, but in the spring and summer McHenry County residents should be prepared for tornado season.