September is National Preparedness Month, but for southern Oklahoma, the prepping never truly stops.
Carter County Emergency Management Director Paul Tucker said it’s little, everyday steps that make all the difference in an emergency.
“For us around here, we have so many different hazards that can affect us at any point in time,” Tucker said.
An emergency affects a small group or a single person, whereas a disaster affects a larger community. But preparing for the former is the best way to combat the latter.
“You may have a house fire, and for you that’s a disaster,” Tucker said. “But in the context of things, that’s an emergency.”
Tucker said the key is starting small, focusing on helping people plan for emergencies, not large-scale catastrophes. Teaching people how to plan for the possibility of a house fire, for example, is a good starting place, because a fire plan can be easily adapted to other disasters like a flood or tornado.
“With emergency management, a disaster starts locally and it will end locally,” Tucker said. “That’s what we try to relay to people. Plan for yourself and your immediate family.”
Every morning Tucker makes coffee, heads to his office and posts the weather forecast to the Carter County Emergency Management Facebook and Twitter pages. During inclement weather, he updates the pages more frequently. He said, so fa,, this year has been a relatively calm one.
“We’ve had some close scares but nothing major for us,” Tucker said, scarcely looking up from the monitors in his office.
He said southern Oklahoma is typically most at risk during spring and then again during fall. The region also got a decent amount of rainfall through summer, which will help during the upcoming wildfire season.
“Tornado season starts January 1 and ends December 31,” Tucker said. “It could happen any time of year. There’s always that potential.”
Ready.gov provides guidance for preparing for anything from a wildfire to an active shooter. The site walks readers through creating their own emergency plans, which are especially important for anyone living in a rural area.
“If people would take the time to create a plan for themselves, it would go a whole lot smoother,” Tucker said. “In this day and age, with the technology we have, there’s no reason for it.”
In addition to social media, Tucker also uses a service called Nixle to text weather alerts to county residents. Anyone can register by visiting Nixle.com or by texting their zip code to 888777. So far, about 4,390 people are registered for Carter County’s alerts.
Tucker said the department is also planning another Community Emergency Response Team class. The county has held four since 2010. If all goes well, they’ll hold a fifth some time this year.
“Those classes take time to put together,” Tucker said. “Now we’ve got about five or six instructors in our county. We’re hoping if things work out, we can do them once a year.”