Red Cross director explains shelters
Battery powered radio a must

Wanda English Burnett - Editor

Some of the reminders of the ice and snow storms that hit the county this month are the clean up crews sawing up trees and tree limbs, people making repairs to their home, and some people who are healing from accidents caused during that time.

While residents didn’t have a lot of time to prepare for the winter weather, the Ripley County Chapter of the American Red Cross has some suggestions should it happen again. Information from Sandy Vanderbur, executive director, notes that “When the forecast involves a watch or warning, residents should then begin preparing for the storm forecasted.”

When preparing for a winter storm that could involve ice, you need to realize the possibility of power outages. Another factor is you may not be able to leave your home due to road conditions. You should keep the following items on hand, according to Vanderbur: extra blankets, warm coats, gloves, hats, battery powered radio, flashlight, extra batteries, energy bars, dry cereal, canned food (that can be eaten without heat), can opener, bottled water (1 gallon per person to last three days), sufficient medicine supply, supplies for babies, a non-electric phone, first aid kit and fuel, propane, wood or a generator for source of heat if power is lost.

If power is lost you should listen to the local radio stations (WRBI or WSCH) for further instructions about shelters available in the area. This is where your battery powered radio comes in!

During the recent storms, the radio stations were announcing the shelters available in Ripley County twice an hour. Those shelter lists were also available by calling the Ripley County Red Cross Office, 911 communications at the sheriff’s department, your local fire department, the Ripley County EMA office and local police departments.

Vanderbur noted that during an ice storm it is difficult for the Red Cross or any other agency to travel the roads to pass out shelter information or go door to door to inform residents of the shelters that are open. “That is why it is very important to have a battery powered radio for instructions about shelters,” commented Vanderbur. She continued by saying that shelters were open during the ice storm for 48 hours with only seven individuals using them. Three people went home once their furnace was repaired, two others went to stay with family members and the other two decided to stay in a hotel. After 24 hours with the shelters having no residents stay in them, they were closed. “Our shelters are run by volunteers, who miss work while running a shelter, and they had already missed two days of work - without pay - and lack of interest from residents in Ripley County prompted the Red Cross to close the shelters with the option to open them back up within an hour’s notice,” stated Charlie Israel, chairman of the board for the Red Cross.

There were shelters in Batesville and Versailles, because there was power in those areas. “When you have a shelter opened it has to have adequate supply of electric for those using oxygen tanks or other medically necessary machines,” noted Vanderbur. The shelter also has to be handicap accessible and able to hold cots if needed. Another reason the shelters were set up in Batesville and Versailles was due to road conditions. “The roads were in horrible shape and the Red Cross wanted to keep the shelters in town to keep those traveling to shelters safe.”

Vanderbur noted that some residents in the community felt the Red Cross was not doing anything to help individuals during this storm and its aftermath. “I feel the Red Cross did an excellent job, we just didn’t have people wanting to travel to the shelters we had opened,” noted Israel.

The Ripley County Red Cross chapter members want the public to know how important it is to prepare for dangerous weather conditions. With tornado season right around the corner, residents are urged to be prepared. If you would like information on making a plan for storms and preparing your family for what may come in the future please call the Red Cross at 689-6308. Information brochures can be sent to you. Also, you can go online to to receive preparation information.

The Ripley County Red Cross chapter would be glad to send a representative to your group or organization to educate on disaster preparedness.