Chandler: ‘Preparedness is perpetual’
September is National Preparedness Month, and Woodford Emergency Management (EM) Director Drew Chandler said the goal of the designation is “to promote family and community disaster planning – not just now, but throughout the year.” “It’s really on our mind right now,” Chandler said, “because we were witness to so much panic buying, back in the beginning of the pandemic, in March and April, where folks rushed out to get the resources they thought they would need to stay at home for a prolonged period of time, which is what we don’t want people to have to do.” The day before his interview with the Sun, Chandler testified at the state Interim Joint Committee on Veterans, Military Affairs and Public Protection. He told the committee, “Preparedness is perpetual. You’ll never be fully ready for every possible scenario, but the more you work on preparedness, the better off you’ll be in the long run.” Chandler said the Department of Homeland Security’s website, www.ready.gov, is full of tips on how to prepare for all seasons and disasters. This month, it’s emphasizing a different theme every week: making a plan, building a kit, preparing for disasters and youth preparedness. Of the latter, Chandler said, “It’s OK to talk to kids about emergencies and what to do. In fact, it’s critically important that families involve youth in planning, because they’re more at risk than the adult population – because they don’t know what to do. Some of their decision-making abilities – they just haven’t developed those natural responses yet, and when children panic, they tend to just kind of clam up and get in this petrified state, which would subject them to more harm.” Schools help with that goal, he said. “They do fire drills. When we sound the outdoor warning sirens, some of the schools participate in those. … There’s a statewide earthquake drill that occurs in February, so they’re learning about some preparedness things at school (but) they should also learn about it at home,” Chandler said. He said the biggest local tool is the EM Department, where he, three part-time deputies and an intern coordinate efforts and resources of government agencies and engage in a variety of community outreach efforts. (Chandler is also a part-time EM employee.) One of the lessons Chandler and company learned from the July 2018 storms that knocked down scores of trees and left many without power for nearly a week is the importance of having a reliable back-up generator. Another was relying on land phone lines when there’s no power, a problem Chandler said was rectified when a cache of cell phones was purchased for the use of essential government workers. Asked if many people don’t prepare for disasters because they think, “It can’t happen to me,” Chandler agreed. “It is a problem. ‘OK, we survived the 2009 ice storm. We survived the 2018 wind storm. Eventually, we’re going to come out the other side of this pandemic tunnel. We’ll raise our hands and say, ‘We survived that. We can get through anything.’’ But we’re just one spring storm away from having another widespread power outage (or a) downtown corridor being destroyed by a tornado. We can’t predict that. But we can prepare for what has happened and learn from how we reacted …” he said.