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Paramedic's Corner: Turn around, don't drown!
Paramedic's Corner: Turn around, don't drown!

Gary Carmack
The State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), National Weather Service (NWS), and your local emergency management Directors (EMDs), which are listed by city at the end of this article, have set March as the month for a “Turn Around, Don’t Drown” campaign to increase flooding awareness for both drivers and citizens.

It seems unbelievable, doesn’t it? We greatly fear tornadoes and hurricanes, and rightly so, but the truth is more people die from water each year. The 30-year average is 99 people die each year of floods, 61 die due to lightning, 54 die due to tornadoes, and 49 die due to hurricanes per year. The Centers for Disease (CDC) record for us that over half of these flood-related drownings occur when a vehicle is driven into hazardous flood water. The next highest cause of death from flooding is people walking into or near flood waters.

Why do people do it? Why take the risk of a horrible death? It seems drivers are often tempted by a shortcut, or they don’t want to turn around. Or perhaps they just have a lapse of good judgment. It might be our overconfidence in our “superman” vehicles. After all, we put a lot of confidence in our cars and trucks. Frankly, it appears most people greatly underestimate the power of water. How manhy realize that just six inches of fast-moving water can knock you off your feet?

Here are some flash flood safety tips:

1) If you live in a floodplain, buy flood insurance.
2) Make a photo inventory of your home/business and all contents for insurance purposes before severe spring weather comes to Missouri.
3) Be aware of weather conditions and be prepared to evacuate if emergency personnel tell you to leave your home or business immediately.
4) Be especially cautious at night. It’s harder to recognize the danger then.
5) Watch for rising water levels.
6) Don’t try to race a flood on foot. If you see it or hear it, immediately head to higher ground.
7) Don’t try to drive through flooded areas. Abandon your vehicle if water begins to rise over the road, and head for higher ground.
8) Stay away from downed power lines; they may land in flooded streets.

Remember: A flash flood watch is issued when the NWS expects heavy rainfall enough to cause flooding. Flash floods are commonly associated with thunderstorms and even tornado outbreaks.

A flash flood warning means flash flooding is imminent or already in progress. If you are in its path, move to higher ground immediately! It is very important for each household to have a NOAA Weather Radio with fresh batteries, or monitor your favorite news source.

List of the Pulaski County Emergency Management Directors: The County EMD is Lawson “Smitty” Smith. The St. Robert EMD is Fire Chief Chuck Fraley. The Richland RMD is Tricounty Fire Chief Rick Hobbs. The Dixon EMD is Dixon Fire Chief Dennis Lachowicz. The Crocker EMD is Alderman Jeff Porter. The Waynesville EMD is Ambulance Administrator Gary Carmack.

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