In weather crisis, you may be the first responder – be ready, city experts urge

Evanston Fire Department Chief Kimberly Kull and several other members of the city government present the April 21 session to help residents prepare for seasonal weather hazards and combat the effects of climate change.

Approximately 40 people attended the meeting, held at the Evanston Public Library and virtually on Zoom. The presentation on spring weather risks was the first of five emergency preparedness sessions planned through January 2023.

The first point Kull made was the evidence for climate change is irrefutable. He quoted a NASA report that described the problem as “irreversible” and said it will “worsen in decades to come” because of human-caused carbon emissions that trap heat inside the Earth’s atmosphere.

Climate change affects the weather in many ways, including the raging wildfires that have consumed swaths of California, severe drought conditions, warming oceans, shrinking ice sheet, glacial retreats and rising sea level. In this part of the Midwest, Kull said, the meteorological changes caused by the warming oceans lead to an increase in thunderstorms and rain, more lakefront flooding and more urban flooding.

Another hazard to prepare for in the Midwest is more wind events like microbursts, tornados and derechos (defined by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration website as “fast moving bands of thunderstorms with high winds”). The Midwest tornado season is generally considered to be March through August, every month of the year recorded tornado activity. Most tornados strike between 3 and 9 pm, prime time for those in school or commuting to or from an office.

The Evanston group has a 24-hour presence of police and fire personnel / EMT personnel who are available to respond quickly if a disaster occurs, and that nearby communities would most likely be able to send reinforcements within the hour.

But, she added, “The reality is the first responders are not going to be trained every day to respond to people in the community.”

Regular folks going about their business who suddenly find themselves in an emergency are the community’s first line of defense, Kull said. “And that’s really why we’re here … To protect their families, and by extension their community. ”

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