Columbia Union Disaster Relief Coordinator Shares Tips Ahead of Winter Storm
The National Weather Service is predicting a winter storm for the Columbia Union Conference region this weekend and Minnie McNeil, union and Allegheny East Conference ACS/Disaster response coordinator, shares tips on being prepared.
McNeil and her team are watching and preparing for the potential storm. She says their main role is to help people know what they ought to do if a storm hits. She urges people to watch/listen to local news or visit weather.gov for weather updates.
Although it might feel awkward to watch television on the Sabbath, people shouldn’t feel guilty about keeping up with the weather forecasts this weekend, says McNeil. “We are encouraging people to be vigilant and utilize the tools available to them so they are kept informed.”
She also encourages members to check their local church’s website to see if services are continuing as planned. She recommends that local churches create a phone tree, where members pass along information to other members via a phone call, in case technology fails. When in doubt about road conditions and closings, she says the best course of action is to stay home.
“This weather event is predicted to bring high winds and wet snow,” says McNeil. “That is a formula for losing power. [People should] prepare as though they aren’t going to have power.” She reminds people to have extra blankets and enough prescriptions, flashlights, batteries, baby supplies, food and water for three days. A good rule of thumb is to have one gallon of water per person for three days, she adds.
McNeil also urges people to keep tabs on two groups of people in their congregations and communities: the elderly and disabled, and singles who don’t have roommates making sure they arrive home safely. She also advises families to designate a family member or friend from outside the area the storm area as a “touchbase” for the family—someone who can share information with family members who may get separated or lose contact with one another.
If a church is in a location where it is the most reliable building in terms of safety, McNeil urges church leaders to offer it as a community shelter that distributes hot beverages and diversions, such as storytelling time for children. “It is a wonderful way for our churches to become partners with emergency management.”
McNeil adds that people who are not healthy shouldn’t be shoveling snow, citing that many heart attacks happen while shoveling snow. She also reminds people to not drive through any moving water, avoid downed power lines and dress appropriately to avoid frostbite.