Lancaster Emergency Management Team Sheds Light On How to Prepare For Disasters This summer

Lauren Sanchez speaking
Lauren Sanchez, Regional Emergency Management Operations Coordinator Photo credit City of Lancaster

‘Most disaster prone area in the United States’

LANCASTER – In case you are not aware, Lauren Sanchez, Regional Emergency Management Operations Coordinator for the Best Southwest cities told a group of about 20 last week that North Texas, right here were we are living, is the most disaster-prone area in the United States.

“If you didn’t know,” Sanchez said adding “Not Florida with hurricanes, not California with wildfires, but it is actually us because we get all the things like tornadoes, hail, flooding, and Irving has had earthquakes. And, if there is a hurricane on the coast, we get all the evacuees to shelter them so there is always something happening here, and I don’t say that to scare you. I say that to emphasize the point.”

The Emergency Management Preparedness Seminar was about teaching people what they can do when disaster strikes even proposing what to do in the case of an active shooter situation.

“I’m teaching people about the hazards that we face living in North Texas – and there’s a lot of them,” Sanchez explained. “Then [in the seminar] we talk about how to prepare for those, how to respond to those if they happen so that your family is just more prepared the next time something happens.”

straws and glowsticks on table
Photo credit City of Lancaster

The seminar, which was also posted to Facebook live ran about 45 minutes.

Of particular importance during Sanchez’s talk was how to prepare for a tornado, and the difference between a tornado watch and a warning. In the case of the latter you need to seek shelter, and she also explained how a tornado shelter is defined.

For those who aren’t aware a shelter is a place inside not outside and it is best if you find a location in the middle of the home or building. She suggested that you need to get on the ground and cover your head and remember to always have an emergency kit handy.

For an emergency kit Sanchez stressed a basic first aid kit, water, and granola bars are mandatory. She also suggested blankets, flashlights, a change of clothes and even an extra pair of glasses and prescription information if applicable. Additionally she emphasized the importance of keeping copies of important documents including insurance information and your identification inside the emergency kit too.

If you have children and pets, they will also need food, clothes and even diapers and formula. Add some extra cash and a phone charger to the mix. Being prepared means if you end up in a disaster and can’t get back inside your home you will be able to handle the aftermath much easier with the necessary information.

“I had the opportunity to attend the open house for the emergency preparedness awareness meeting for our citizens of Lancaster, which was a very successful event,” said Stanley Jaglowski, Lancaster Mayor Pro Tem, Council Member District 2. “Our regional emergency management operations coordinator for the four Best Southwest cities gave great information to our citizens in making them aware of not only the importance of being aware of our environment, but also how to be prepared on the aftermath.”

The seminar could not have come at a better time since Sanchez reminded those in attendance that North Texas is currently in the middle of severe weather season.

“We face disasters all the time and if you have lived in this area for a couple of weeks, couple of months, couple of years you know we are constantly dealing with something,” she recapped. “When something does happen it happens quickly and the moment the disaster is happening should never be the first moment you are actually thinking of what should I do in this moment.”

Addressing Active Shooter Situations

Another key point was active shooter situations. She explained with schools, there are school resource officers so if someone enters with a weapon there is trained person already there to respond.

The idea she emphasized was during an active threat you must do one of three things; avoid, deny, defend.

“Don’t be paranoid, but if you are going somewhere know where all the exits are if you have to get out,” she said. “When you go places train yourself to pay attention to where the exits are, but if someone comes in to where you might be… with a weapon and they are inflicting harm… first thing I want you to do is always avoid, which is run. Avoid the area completely and avoid the person with the weapon.”

If you can’t get away from the attacker, the second option is to deny them access to you.

“So, if you are in a situation and there are no doors except the one you came in then look for a bathroom or a storage room and go there and deny them access to you,” Sanchez said.

If the person saw, you go into the location where you are hiding then barricade the door and try to get out using a window or another door.

Finally, if all else fails defend.

“Get as creative as you can with weapons; chair, fire extinguisher if you want to use it or hit them with it or with your heels – whatever you have that is heavy. And you must commit if you are in that situation. It is not fun to talk about, but I want you thinking about it ahead of time,” she said. And when the police do arrive put your hands in the air holding nothing not even your mobile phone so the officers can see you are not the threat and you do not have anything they could mistake for a weapon.

The meeting, a basic 101 course in getting ready for an emergency was a positive reminder about the importance of being proactive.

“We’re out here doing some emergency preparedness for the citizens and the community of Lancaster,” Chris Youngman, Emergency Management Chief, City of Lancaster concluded. “We want to remind everybody of the value of being prepared, always looking and paying attention to what’s going on in the world today, what’s going on with the weather – we just want to remind everyone to be prepared.”