Some people laid in bed, awake, listening to the crack of trees breaking under the weight of ice, worrying that a tree may fall on their home.
Others struggled with a power outage that left them in the dark and unable to communicate due to cable and internet service interrupted by the ice storm.
Keizer’s electricity providers quickly went to work to get the power back on. For many the power was off for a few days; houses grew cold and food spoiled in refrigerators.
Sunday morning dawned. The damage in the light of day was widespread. And Keizer residents did what they always do: they helped their neighbors. The sound of chainsaws rang out across the city as downed trees and limbs were cut into managable pieces.
It was not only the manual help Keizerites offered one another, it was psychological and spiritual help, as well. People checked on the status of family, friends and neighbors. Those who needed a warm place during the power outages got one through the altrusim of others.
Keizer does not receive hazardous winter weather on a regular basis. When the city is hit with deep snow or an ice storm many of us are not prepared. Last week’s weather is a reminder that we all should be ready for emergencies.
Society has been trained to call 9-1-1 in an emergency, which is the correct course of action when a person is injured or in medical distress. The 9-1-1 dispatch service for our area was innudated with calls from Keizer and Salem. Reportedly, at one time there were hundreds of calls swamping the system. It is indisputable that 9-1-1 be called in emergencies.
When weather creates chaos you can bet that first responders are on the streets. Not every cracked tree or fallen limb is an emergency, it is a major inconvenience and annoyance, but not an emergency. It is situations such as these when our resilience kicks in and we get to work to help ourselves and others.
Besides the symphony of chainsaws throughout town the chorus of smoke alarms beeping rang out in homes in every neighborhood. Each year public service announcements remind us to change smoke alarm batteries, many do. Those who didn’t change the battery with the onset of daylight savings time in November, heard about it if their power went out and alarm batteries unchanged. (Daylight standard time begins March 14.)
We rarely think about emergencies until they happen. Like the Boy Scout motto, we all need to be prepared. That’s the nature of emergencies, they seldom telegraph their arrival. Keizer suffered through an ice storm last weekend, what other emergencies might visit Keizer that we must prepare for? An earthquake is something the public sector is preparing for. Our schools are being retrofitted to withstand earthquakes as bridges and overpasses are on our highways.
Allocating money for disasters is money well spent. Though we can forecast a weather front, sometimes nature is unpredictable and we have to be ready for whatever comes.
What to do? Come spring homeowners can inventory the trees on their property and identify those that can cause problems in a wind or ice storm. Consulting a tree service is a good start.
Emergencies are not limited to cold and ice. The possibility of a wildfire tearing through Keizer is not foreign. In today’s climate change scenario, in the right conditions, a fire could rage through town. At that point cutting shrubs away from the house is too late. It is one way we can be prepared for an emegency.
Public safety agencies have no shortage of information about preparing emergency kits and what to do during a disaster. That information is always available to the public.
Let us learn the lessons this month’s ice storm has taught us. Let us be prepared for whatever comes next. —LAZ