Douglas County    City of Omaha    Website Issues   
Facebook Icon Twitter Icon
Bookmark and Share

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Question: If needed, how will residents be evacuated?

2. Question: Are Douglas County Schools prepared for disaster?

3. Question: How will I be warned of a disaster?

4. Question: What do I do if I don't hear a siren or witness a siren not working?

5. Question: Is there a designated radio or television station that broadcasts disaster information?

6. Question: I have family members and neighbors who are elderly and disabled. I worry about what would happen to them in a disaster. How will they be taken care of?

7. Question: Where is the disaster shelters located in my community?

8. Question: What is the emergency plan for Douglas County?

9. Question: How long will it take for help to arrive in a disaster?

10. Question: How can I prepare myself and my family for a disaster?

11. Question: How can I prepare my workplace for a disaster?

12. Question: What should I do if a disaster strikes and the phones don’t work?

13. Question: Will my mobile phone work in a disaster?

14. Question: Who is in charge when a disaster strikes?

15. Question: When disaster strikes, what is the best way to help other people in need?

16. Question: Where do facilities send Tier II reports?

 

1. Question: What is the evacuation plan?

Answer: In the event that an area needs to be evacuated, law enforcement and fire personnel will work together to identify evacuation routes, notify residents, and coordinate transportation. Local officials will also coordinate with the American Red Cross to ensure that shelters are available that can receive evacuated residents.

Fortunately, Douglas County does has paved routes into and out of most areas.  This is necessary because the kinds of disasters we have, such as fires and earthquakes, require flexibility in the routes that are used. Most evacuation routes are established at the time of the emergency.

Back to Top 

 

2. Question: Are Douglas County Schools prepared for disaster?

Answer: Douglas County schools have taken an active role in engaging their staff and students to respond appropriately to the sounding of outdoor warning sirens.  Most schools in Douglas County have disaster plans and they train staff and conduct drills on a regular basis.

 

We encourage parents to ask school officials about their emergency plans.  These plans include the manner and methods that school officials inform staff, students and parents to threats of concern.  Have they practiced the plan? What do they want you to do in the event of an emergency at the school?

Back to Top

 3. Question: How will I be warned of a disaster?

Answer: In the event of an emergency in your neighborhood, first responders may simply go door-to-door or use public address systems to let you know if you need to evacuate or take some other protective action. There are a number of other tools that emergency officials have to provide warning.

a) News releases – If time allows, emergency officials may simply broadcast emergency information to the news media. We have methods in place to rapidly notify the media.

b) Emergency Alert System (EAS) – This is another method of using radio, television, and cable broadcasts to warn the public of an emergency. EAS is a system that gives emergency officials and the National Weather Service immediate access to broadcast stations. Unlike standard news releases, EAS broadcasts can be issued very quickly and they can be issued on all radio, television, and cable systems, not just those with news departments.

c) NOAA Weather Radio – This is a special consumer radio that will sound an alarm when triggered by emergency officials or the National Weather Service. The alarm is followed by an emergency message. NOAA Weather Radios are essential for preparedness. DCEMA highly recommends that Douglas County residents get a NOAA Weather Radio. They start at about $40 and can be purchased from several retail electronics stores.

d) Sirens - Many communities in Douglas County have installed outdoor warning siren systems to provide an additional warning of impending danger from threatening weather.  As their name implies, our sirens are manufactured and installed so that they can be heard when people are out-of-doors or outside of their homes or other buildings.  Although the outdoor warning sirens are often heard inside of buildings, they are not designed or installed to be heard inside of buildings within their geographic coverage area.

Back to Top

 

4. Question: What do I do if I don't hear a siren or witness a siren not working?

Answer: If you witness a siren not working, or if you believe there is an issue with a siren located nearby, report this issue using the Report Siren Issues form.

 Back to Top

 

5. Question: Is there a designated radio or television station that broadcasts disaster information?

Answer: There is no designation station for emergency broadcasts. In the event of an emergency we encourage you to tune to a local radio or television news station for information. The major news broadcasters do a good job in providing current emergency information.

Back to Top

6. Question: I have family members and neighbors who are elderly and disabled. I worry about what would happen to them in a disaster. How will they be notified?

Answer: Disasters tend to hit the elderly and disabled the hardest. Emergency officials will assist people with special needs in an emergency. However, we have a limited number of emergency response personnel and it may take a while before the elderly and disabled get the support they need.

You can help the elderly and disabled get prepared by helping them develop personal support networks. These are simply networks of at least three people who are roommates, relatives, neighbors, friends, or co-workers who will help the person in an emergency. People in the network know the person’s special needs, they have their emergency contact information, and they will check on the person in an emergency to see if they need assistance. 

For more information, see the American Red Cross publication, Preparing for Disaster for People with Disabilities and other Special Needs.

Also, if your elderly or disabled friends and family live in a boarding home, nursing home, or adult family home, find out what the emergency plan is for that facility. What do they want you to do in an emergency that impacts the facility? What is the plan for evacuating the facility and have they practiced it?

Back to Top

 

7. Question: Where is the disaster shelters located in my community?

Answer: The American Red Cross is responsible for setting up shelters. The Heartland Chapter of the American Red Cross has agreements for the use of certain schools, churches, and other community buildings. The locations of shelters will vary based on the type and location of the emergency event, the number of persons directly affected by the emergency, and the intended use of a shelter (e.g., a warming shelter versus a sleeping shelter). For this and other reasons, shelter locations are not pre-announced or posted.

Back to Top

 

8. Question: What is the emergency plan for Douglas County?

Answer: The jurisdictions in Douglas County have plans for how they will prepare for, respond to, and recover from a disaster. The plans are consistent with state and federal disaster plans. These plans identify the roles and responsibilities of key officials and departments, establish chains of command and reporting, and establish methods of communication and coordination. For more information see Community Plans & Planning.

Back to Top

 

9. Question: How long will it take for help to arrive in a disaster?

Answer: The amount of time it takes for help to arrive in your community after a disaster will depend on the size and scope of the disaster. On any given day in our community, we have enough first response personnel to handle a routine number of calls for help. But when disaster strikes, these personnel may be quickly overwhelmed. Just like the rest of us, they have families to take care of. Emergency vehicles may be held up because of blocked or damaged roads and 9-1-1 and public safety communication systems may be damaged.

We have plans in place to mobilize the local resources in Douglas County and to call on resources from surrounding counties, and from the state and federal government. But we know from real disasters that it may take several days before  enough help arrives to address everyone’s needs.

This is why DCEMA strongly encourages all Douglas County residents to be prepared to be on their own for at least three days. This is a realistic amount of time during which emergency services, utilities, and critical infrastructure will be disrupted. For more information, see Citizen Awareness & Planning.

Back to Top

 

10. Question: How can I prepare myself and my family for a disaster?

Answer: Develop a disaster plan for your family and practice your plan. A good plan will include special considerations for children, pets, or others with special needs, as well as establishing an out-of-area contact to serve as a message board for you to leave messages for you and your loved ones. As another basic emergency preparedness step you should also assemble a 72- hour kit (as a minimum) with some emergency supplies. You can also take some mitigation steps around the home, school and workplace to lessen the extent of damage when a disaster does strike.

Back to Top

 

11. Question: How can I prepare my workplace for a disaster?

Answer: As part of your employer’s responsibility for providing a safe workplace, they should have plans for protecting employee health and safety during a disaster. Employees should know what they should do in an emergency. They should know how to exit the facility safely and the evacuation meeting location.

Every workplace should have a ‘facility emergency plan’. This is a plan for protecting the health and safety of building occupants. It should identify who is in charge, how to evacuate, how to respond to fires, medical emergencies, and disasters, how to report emergencies, and other items.

Work with your employer to identify what planning and preparedness measures need to be in place. DCEMA, the American Red Cross, and your local fire department can assist you with the development of your facility emergency plan.

Back to Top

 

12. Question: What should I do if a disaster strikes and the phones do not work?

Answer: First of all, when disaster strikes, you should limit your use of the telephone. Use the telephone to call 9-1-1 only if life and safety are at stake. This will leave the circuits open for more urgent calls.

In a disaster the telephone system may be damaged or it may simply be that circuits are busy because so many people are using the phones. If the circuits are overloaded you may hear a fast busy signal after you dial the number. If this is the case, try calling a friend or family member at a long distance number. Long-distance calls bypass the local phone switch. You may have a better chance getting through to them then if you made a local call.

Here again, preparedness is the key. Act now to identify a friend or family member outside of the local calling area (out-of-area contact) and make arrangements for you and your family to contact them to let them know your status. This can provide an enormous reassurance to you and your loved ones in an emergency.

Also, in your family emergency plan, figure out what your family will do if the phones don’t work. You may want to identify a central location where you can all meet.

Back to Top

 

13. Question: Will my mobile phone work in a disaster?

Answer: Mobile phones are connected into the same phone system that regular, land line phones are connected to. They are not necessarily any more or less reliable then land line telephones.

Back to Top

 

14. Question: Who is in charge when a disaster strikes?

Answer: The chief elected official is responsible for emergency management in their jurisdiction. But in an emergency, the chief elected official or city manager delegates the responsibility for incident management to their public health and safety agencies. The most qualified person designated to be in charge of the incident is called the ‘incident commander’. This person has complete authority for direction and control of emergency operations. In major incidents, where the disaster overlaps jurisdictional boundaries or areas of responsibility, a ‘unified command’ may be established, where multiple commanders work together to manage the incident. This ensures that these stakeholders can fulfill their critical responsibilities. The incident commander or unified commanders must still answer to the elected official or city manager of the jurisdiction they represent.

All agencies in Douglas County use the same method to determine chains of command and authority. It is called the NIMS Incident Command System. This comprehensive incident management system applies to every type of emergency, large or small. It is what we use to ensure that every level of government and every involved organization will work together seamlessly to protect life and property.

Back to Top

 

15. Question: When disaster strikes, what is the best way to help other people in need?

Answer: The best way to help is with donations of cash to credible non-profit organizations. The needs of disaster victims vary over time, so cash donations provide for the greatest flexibility. Cash donations can also help rebuild the economy of the impacted area. Be sure that you only donate to recognized organizations. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for fraudulent individuals or organizations to take advantage of everyone’s desire to help people in need. Be sure to do your research.

Another great way to help is to volunteer. The American Red Cross has an extensive and well-organized program to use volunteers for their mass care and shelter operations. See if your church has a national organization that has disaster recovery mission. Several of them have programs to help with rebuilding, warehousing, donations management, and other aspects of disaster recovery. Other professional associations and non-profit organizations may also be able to put you to work as a volunteer.

Monitor media outlets for a request for community volunteers. Follow the specific instructions on reporting times and places.

It is seldom helpful to donate material items. Clothing and food, in particular, are almost never needed. Unless it is done carefully, donated goods can hurt more then they help. They require assessment, sorting, and distribution. We know from real disasters that donated goods often end up in the landfill because the impacted community doesn’t have the ability to process the items.

In some instances, donated goods may be requested. Here again, do your research and make sure that that you are donating goods through a credible organization and that the goods are needed?

Back to Top

 

16. Question: Where do facilities send Tier II reports?

Answer: Send all Tier II reports to the LEPC.

 Back to Top