By Karen Lyncoln
For the Pathfinder
February 11, 1999
"No one knows what, if anything, will happen at midnight next December 31st, said Bill Silverman, "so we should prepare as we would for other emergency situations."
Silverman of the Missoula County Office of Emergency Management presented a list of personal and local government preparedness tips at the January 25th meeting of the Seeley Lake Community Preparedness Group.
Peggy Westphal of the Seeley Lake Rural Fire District, Sandy Sommerdyke of the Quick Response Unit, Bob Parcell of the Missoula County Sheriff's Office, and Bob Stefczak of the Seeley Lake Pharmacy added tips from a local perspective.
Silverman recommended that residents include the following materials in their personal emergency supplies kit:
A supply of water (one gallon per person per day)
A supply of non-perishable packaged or canned food and a non-electric can opener
Extra clothing, outdoor wear, and sturdy shoes or boots
Blankets or sleeping bags
A first aid kit and prescription medications
An extra pair of glasses
A battery-powered radio, flashlight, and plenty of extra batteries
Credit cards and cash
An extra set of car keys
A list of family physicians
Silverman reported that a group of County emergency management personnel will start meeting in Missoula to discuss how best to coordinate their efforts for Y2k preparedness. Issues that Missoula County will need to address include finding and stocking shelters if the power is out for any length of time, ensuring that medical and emergency services are up and running, and that people can find sufficient water, firewood, and other emergency supplies.
Westphal presented some basic fire safety information that she noted is particularly important for residents who do not usually use wood for heating and cooking:
Do not use charcoal briquettes inside the house for heating or cooking. Carbon monoxide gas is produced and is deadly. Only use charcoal briquettes outside
Clean chimneys once before next year's cold season and more often if you burn wood constantly. She noted that the Fire District has brushes that residents can borrow for cleaning chimneys.
Make sure that you have smoke and carbon monoxide detectors that are battery powered. Plug-in detectors will not work if the power is down.
Oil-burning heaters and portable stoves use up the available oxygen in a room. Make sure to crack a window to replenish the oxygen.
Keep all stoves, heaters, lanterns, and candles away from combustible materials like furniture or Christmas trees or decorations.
Don't leave lit candles unattended.
Get a supply of firewood early; do not wait until the forest is closed because of fire restrictions or becomes snowpacked.
Westphal reminded residents to contact the Fire Department if they have other questions.
Sommerdyke reported that the QRU has contingency plans for emergencies and is reviewing the Y2k problem. She was concerned about "at-risk" residents - people who have special medical needs or concerns. She urged such people to let the QRU know who and where they are.
Deputy Parcell noted that the Sheriff's Office believes that the 911 system will continue operating during any Y2k-related emergency. If there are problems during that time, deputies will remain at their office at the Forest Service building or by the radio at the Fire Hall.
"How will you get gasoline for fire trucks, the ambulance, or patrol cars if the power goes down?" asked Cathy Rapp. None of the panel members could answer that question; they will get back to the group on how, if necessary, gasoline might be reserved for emergency uses and on how, if necessary, gasoline could be pumped without electricity.
"I'm ordering additional medical and prescription supplies for Y2k," said Bob Stefczak, Seeley Lake pharmacist told the audience. He plans to review his files to determine what medicines are frequently used and is encouraging clients to get an extra month's supply of prescription medications in December 1999.
"Use common sense; sort through information and misinformation; prepare without panic; take care of yourself, your family, and your neighbors; and develop and test an emergency preparedness plan," advised Silverman in his closing remarks.
The next meeting of the Community Preparedness Group will be held at the Seeley Lake Elementary School Multi-purpose Room from 7:00 to 9:00 pm on Monday, February 8th. The topic is food - amounts to store, local resources to purchase bulk and caselot goods, and other emergency food resources.