Although the sun was shining and there was hardly a cloud in the sky , area residents gathered at the Christensen Field Main Arena on Tuesday to prepare for the not-so-sunny days when the weather can turn deadly.
The event was the Region 5/6 Emergency Management 2018 Severe Weather Awareness Expo, which provided area residents an opportunity to learn how to spot and report severe weather as well as how to stay prepared for a variety of emergency situations.
“Events like these help foster a community where people are knowledgeable of weather conditions for their family preparedness, and to help the emergency responders in responding to potential incidences,” Region 5/6 Emergency Management Coordinator Bill Pook said.
According to Pook, the entire purpose of the annual event is to raise awareness about the potential threat of severe weather, especially during the spring months in Nebraska.
“Each year, we do the same thing, because it bears repeating every year,” Pook said. “We do these weather classes to reinforce the weather issue and to help create awareness out there.”
Along with a weather spotting program presented by the National Weather Service in Valley, the event also included booths that featured a variety of locally-based public health and safety organizations and groups.
The Fremont Police Department, Fire Department, and Dodge County 911 and groups like Dodge County REACT, Civil Air Patrol, Pioneer Amateur Radio Club, and Three Rivers Public Health Department participated by giving attendees a look into what they do to promote public health and safety during emergency situations.
“As the public health department we try to promote and educate about public health emergencies and we work with Region 5/6 on disasters and emergencies,” Karmen Dickes, emergency response coordinator for Three Rivers, said. “Our focus is obviously on public health emergencies, so just making sure people stay safe.
At the Three Rivers booth, Dickes gave out first aid kits, coolers, and cups as well as educational literature about staying prepared for a possible emergency.
“We are providing some education about things you should have in your emergency preparedness kits, and with severe weather season coming up we are talking about the difference between watches and warnings, things like that,” she said.
According to Dickes, although most weather related disasters like tornadoes and thunderstorms don’t end up being classified as public health emergencies, Three Rivers still serves as a public health function in case they do.
“Unless those events end up facilitating a flu outbreak, or volunteers that are cleaning up debris need tetanus shots, then we would step in and help and just be a public health function to assist in the emergency response,” she said.
Along with the public health department and other emergency response agencies like the police and fire department, the Severe Weather Awareness Expo also allowed citizen groups to get the word out about how they assist in emergency situations.
That includes groups like the Dodge County REACT, which the local chapter of an international organization of individuals dedicated to the use of two-way radio communications to help serve their communities in emergency and other situations.
“Basically we try to help the police when there is a big event or emergency. Halloween is one of our biggest things we patrol that night just to make sure all the kids stay safe,” Greg Beiermann, Dodge County REACT member, said. “A couple of years ago that big storm where tree branches were down everywhere we were kind of helping run interference and guiding everyone around those areas.”
The group also helps everyone stay safe during the John C. Fremont Days parade by assisting in blocking off streets and keeping children out of the way of all the floats.
The mission of REACT International is to provide public safety communications to individuals, organizations, and government agencies to save lives, prevent injuries, protect property and give radio assistance wherever and whenever needed, according to information provided by the non-profit organization.
The Severe Weather Awareness Expo also provided plenty of fun and excitement for local children and families.
Kids got the opportunity to sit in a police car, fire truck, and ambulance and meet Omaha Storm Chasers mascots Stormy and Vortex.
The event also featured live weather broadcasts from WOWT meteorologist Rusty Lord, as well as hotdogs and chips for all attendees, and plenty of door prizes including a pair of Husker tickets for the teams opening day game against Akron.
“We wanted to make this a big, fun event for everybody to come out to not just the typical lecture class that a lot of towns go through,” Pook said.