Evanston Public Library and Fire Department Host Emergency Preparedness Conference
The Evanston Public Library taught residents how to prepare for extreme weather events in the spring at a public event Thursday night.
About 20 locals gathered at the EPL’s main branch to hear from experts on preparing for handling spring weather, such as floods and tornadoes, and the fallout from severe weather, such as power outages. EPL has partnered with the Evanston Fire Department to inform residents of protocol for climate-induced weather crises.
Evanston is particularly vulnerable to increasingly intense storms, drought conditions, threats to water quality and warmer temperatures, said EFD Division Chief Kimberly Kull.
Kull said thunderstorms are more likely to occur in the spring. There has been an overall increase in the number of severe thunderstorms in Illinois since 1950, Kull said. 2021 was one of the hardest hit years for thunderstorms, she said.
Human-caused climate change events are driving severe spring weather, Kull said. Heavy rainfall can lead to major flooding or storms along the lake. She said climate experts predict extreme rainfall will have a big impact on Evanston as early as 2050.
“There is a natural climate change, but we can definitely determine that this is not a normal cycle. It’s something directly related to our actions,” Kull said. “We have a responsibility to reduce the demand for fossil fuels, etc.”
At the end of 2018, the city council approved the Climate Action and Resilience Planwhich calls for carbon neutrality and zero waste by 2050 and 100% renewable electricity by 2030, among other goals.
Evanston has made remarkable strides in sustainability in recent years, said Cara Pratt, City Sustainability and Resilience Coordinator.
Evanston has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by about 30% since 2005, Pratt said. In 2021, municipal operations got 100% of their energy from renewable electricity, which she said was achieved by purchasing energy credits from renewable energy projects.
Other efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions include updating building codes to increase the efficiency of housing operations, supporting local renewable energy projects, promoting the electrification of buildings and vehicles, reducing reliance on fossil fuels and promoting velocity and walking, Pratt said.
Kull said one of the first steps in any extreme weather response is communication. Residents can stay informed by following local news channels, social media and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association’s weather radio, she said.
In response to thunderstorms, residents should take shelter in a “substantial building” to avoid injury, Kull said. Residents should also avoid going outside before the rain starts because lightning can strike even in dry conditions, she said.
In response to the flooding, Kull said residents should avoid floodwaters because there can be contaminants in the water and toxic chemicals from the sewage system. Exposure to these pollutants can have health consequences, she said.
Thursday’s event is the first in a series of extreme weather preparedness seminars that will take place throughout the year. Seminars on summer, fall and winter hazards, such as extreme temperatures and heavy snowstorms, will take place on May 12, August 18 and October 13, respectively.
American Red Cross duty officer Brian Nestler said while some Evanston residents might overlook emergency preparedness measures because they see themselves as financially well-positioned or having a structurally sound home, they should also be aware of the potential risks posed. everyone in extreme weather conditions.
“Everyone is vulnerable to extreme weather conditions,” Nestler said. “Each family should begin emergency preparedness based on their family’s unique needs.”
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