Traverse City Record-Eagle

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April 28, 2013

Public safety leaders encourage readiness

TRAVERSE CITY — Two bombs go off on a crowded street in Boston.

A shooter inflicts unspeakable terror at an elementary school in Connecticut.

Powerful tornadoes destroy communities in Alabama and Missouri.

Those tragedies may seem a world away from rural northern Michigan, where people and crime are sparse and the sense of community is strong. But public safety leaders in the Grand Traverse region said such tragedies, including mass shootings, terrorist attacks and devastating natural disasters, can happen here, and being ready for worst case scenarios -- as individuals and communities -- will save lives when disaster strikes.

“I think our first responders, police, fire, EMS -- they are as prepared as they can be for events like this,” said Leelanau County Emergency Management Director Tom Skowronski. “The citizens themselves? I don’t think ... very well-prepared.”

Officials ranked the top public safety threats to the region as:

1. Snowstorms, straight-line winds and prolonged power outages.

Recent winters were mild, but northern Michigan received a reminder of what snow-induced havoc is like in March 2012. A snowstorm downed power lines and knocked out power for nearly a week.

“The older employees around here say that’s the worst we’ve seen,” said Cherryland Electric Cooperative General Manager Tony Anderson.

Anderson said wind with snow is the biggest threat to the power supply. He recommends people prepare for a worst-case scenario by having ample supplies of water, food, alternative medical treatment plans in place for the frail, and individualized emergency plans for your household.

The cooperative learned lessons from the lengthy outage and is constantly upgrading its equipment for dealing with prolonged power outages, Anderson said. The cooperative recently purchased a specialized device that allows for the quick digging of holes for power line poles in remote areas where there’s mud, lots of snow and frozen ground.

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