Trooper Rob: Making a plan for emergencies

Published 6:30 pm Thursday, January 9, 2014

Your Michigan State Police wish you and yours a Happy New Year. We hope everyone had a safe 2013 and that 2014 continues to be just as safe, if not safer for all.

The recent weather is a good example of being prepared and safe in any situation

For the next year, I will be advising of safety tips from a program called Do 1 Thing, a non-profit organization that aims to help build stronger communities. The 12-month program makes it easy for you to prepare yourself, your family and your community for emergencies and disasters. Each month has a theme with different activities you can do. I will spread these out each week. Some of these tips have been mentioned in previous articles but are always worth a reminder. January’s theme is “Make A Plan.”

One thing to start with is to find out what kind of disaster can happen where you live and plan what to do in a disaster. This past week’s weather is a great example. Extra wood for the wood stove or fireplace, a generator and fuel for the generator, or making sure your furnace was cleaned out ahead of time are things to think about. There is no need to wait for the disaster to discover you are not prepared. What about tornadoes coming up in the spring? Do you have shelter planned? Do all other members of the family know where emergency shelter is in the home? Do 1 Thing to discover your local possible disasters and prepare.

What other disasters may occur in your local area?

Many questions have also come in reference to a “state of emergency” and being ticketed for driving in inclement weather. The following is information on how states of emergency are declared and who can declare them. These are quotes from our Emergency Management Division.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has not declared a state of emergency in response to the ice storm that left hundreds of thousands without power because there haven’t been any formal requests for state assistance, officials said. In all, roughly 570,000 electric customers lost power since last Saturday, Dec. 21, with 51,300 still without power on Friday afternoon, Dec. 27, according to Michigan State Police Capt. Chris Kelenske, deputy state director of Emergency Management and Homeland Security.

Facing questions about why the governor has not stepped in, Kelenske and Snyder spokesman Dave Murray held a teleconference with reporters on Friday afternoon to explain how and why a state of emergency is declared.

“Disasters are first and foremost local events,” Kelenske said. “Most disasters are handled by local government with minimal or no state assistance.”

Some counties and townships have declared a local state of emergency, which means local resources are being utilized to the fullest possible extent and allows officials to restrict access to certain roadways.

“It is important to remember the goal of disaster assistance is not to make individuals, businesses or government entities whole again, but to restore community to a level that meets expected health and safety considerations,” Kelenske said. “We’re not surprised to see the local state of emergencies that have been put in place.”

Local governments can request state assistance if they’re unable to handle the disaster and the state can ask for a presidential disaster declaration if it doesn’t have enough resources.

Kelenske said the state police have asked local emergency management departments if they need help, but so far they have not asked for state assistance. There needs to be a specific reason for declaring a statewide emergency, he said.

“I do think there’s a perception out there that that automatically fixes things, and it doesn’t,” he said.

Some have asked why the state didn’t bring in the National Guard to deploy generators or other assistance. The soldiers aren’t trained to work on utility lines, and they can’t bring in generators to power blocks of homes.

“If there were hospitals and nursing facilities and all these places that needed generators, and the locals could not provide generators, they would come to us and ask for that,” he said.

Murray said Snyder’s office is ready to respond if needed.

“The storm has been an important issue for Gov. Snyder,” Murray said. “He recognizes that there have been difficulties for many people in this state, and we’re also impressed with the way Michiganders pulled together during these tough times.”

Local governments, such as counties and townships can restrict the travel on local roads and this is enforced by local ordinances, but the Governor would have to issue a statewide emergency to shut down state roads.


Trooper Rob Herbstreith is a member of the Michigan State Police.