Monday, March 26, 2012

Listen, Act and Live!

By Tod Pritchard
Emergency Preparedness Coordinator
Wisconsin Emergency Management

April 19, 2012… 1:45pm. Sirens will wail. Radio and TV stations will interrupt programming. NOAA Weather Radios will go off. What’s going on? It is the annual statewide Tornado drill. And for the first time broadcasters across the state will be joining schools, business and families in the annual test to prepare for Wisconsin’s severe storm season.

Wisconsin’s Tornado and Severe Weather Awareness Week is April 16-20. Through media interviews and public service announcements we’re trying to get a single, life-saving message out to everyone… Listen, Act and Live! Listen to the tornado watches and warnings, act by seeking shelter when you hear a tornado may be on its way, doing both can help you live through the danger. A study done by the National Weather Service following the Joplin, Missouri tornado last year is truly an eye-opener. Many of the 161 lives lost could have been saved if people took action right way. Unfortunately many folks wasted time by trying to re-confirm the warnings and not seeking shelter immediately.

Joplin, Missouri: EF-5 tornado kills 161 people

If you go to the ReadyWisconsin website (  you will view tornado survival stories from Wisconsin. The details of their experiences may be different but their message is the same… get an emergency weather radio in your home, office and school. The early warning can save your life. Emergency radios immediately alert you of severe weather and tornadoes headed your way. Then, tell us your survival story. Just go to You may win an emergency weather radio for your tale.

There are many myths about tornadoes which are false and could be life threatening. Here’s one I hear all the time: When traveling by shelter under an overpass as a
tornado approaches.

Seeking shelter under an overpass is more dangerous than standing in an open field while a tornado is approaching. When a tornado passes over an overpass, winds are funneled under the bridge thereby increasing the velocity. The same phenomena can be experienced by standing between two buildings on a windy day. The best place to seek shelter while traveling is in a sturdy building. If no building is available, lie flat on the ground and cover your head or stay in your vehicle with seat belts fastened. Tornadoes do not follow terrain features exactly so chances are if the tornado comes directly toward your will pass right over you. Be wary however...debris tends to collect in lows spots such as culverts and ditches...and flash flooding may be possible as well.
Here is another one: To minimize damage to your all the windows prior to
a tornado striking it to equalize the pressure inside and prevent it from exploding...
While tornadoes do have incredible pressure changes associated within them...if a tornado strikes your house directly...the winds and flying debris alone will damage it severely anyway. All homes have the ability to equalize their pressure inside...since no house is 100 percent air-tight. By opening windows you allow no chance of the window
shielding you from debris outside which may cause bodily harm...and it wastes precious time you need to take cover.
For more information on severe storms and tornado preparedness, please go to our website:  And remember, Listen, Act and Live!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Governor's Conference is almost here!

The 45th annual Governor’s Conference on Emergency Management and Homeland Security is just around the corner.  This conference has some fantastic speakers with a variety that should reach out to many disciplines and various partner agencies.

The Governor’s Conference Committee is comprised of state and local emergency management personnel.  The group has worked diligently to ensure top-notch presenters that have important real world experiences such as the Joplin Tornado to discuss.  Also, Jeff Skiles, the first officer of the US Airways flight who helped land his plane safely in the Hudson River will present at the conference. The committee also has some captivating break out sessions planned that will cover a variety of topics pertinent to responders and those involved with disaster preparedness, response and recovery. 

This year we are particularly excited to have attendees register through the new Wisconsin Training Portal:   So far the portal is working nicely and we are very happy.  There have been few hiccups but those can be worked out by calling David Nunley at 608-242-3213.  Registration is filling up fast and the conference is nearly half full!  The block of rooms has been released to the public so it is strongly encouraged that those interested register asap to make sure they get in and also get a room.  For those persons who do register and attend the conference they will also be receiving a very nice mystery gift! 

It will be a great time of fellowship with other emergency managers and support agencies.  It is the relationships built before a disaster that will make us more efficient when responding and recovering from a disaster!

David Nunley, MPA
Training Section Program Supervisor
Wisconsin Emergency Management

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

ReadyWisconsin Goes to Washington D.C.

- Tod Pritchard, Preparedness Coordinator for ReadyWisconsin

Wow, for a simple country boy from Wisconsin, going to Washington D.C. is like visiting another world.  You’re struck first by the history that surrounds you.  Our conference on emergency preparedness was held in the old Naval Hospital built in 1864.

You’re also struck by the people who work in D.C.  So many people walk with an air of confidence and a sense of mission.  Many working on Capitol Hill and other government agencies look so young.  Well, I guess everyone looks young to me these days…

I was invited to spend two days learning about emergency planning from really smart people who flew in from across the country.  There are so many great ideas on how to talk to people about being ready for emergencies and disasters.  One of the biggest takeaways for me was research that shows that children exposed to emergency planning in school are three times more likely to be ready and to get their families ready.  The same is true for people exposed to preparedness ideas in their workplace training.

I shared information about our STEP (Student Tools for Emergency Planning) program.  5,800 fifth-grade students in 90 schools across Wisconsin will participate in STEP this school year.  Folks at the conference were amazed by those numbers.

So you might be wondering: how did I get a picture of myself in front of the U.S. Capitol?  Well, it rained the entire time I was in D.C. and no one from the conference wanted to walk to the Capitol and stand in the rain to take a picture.  So on my way out of town I asked my cab driver (Carlos) to swing by the Capitol.  I told him he was in for a good tip if he would take my picture.  He did a nice job, don’t you think?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Early November Full of Opportunities to Prepare for Emergencies

Hello from ReadyWisconsin!  With daylight saving time, the first nationwide emergency alert system (EAS) test and Wisconsin’s Winter Awareness Week all around the corner, the time is right to make a quick post about all that we have going on.

Daylight Saving Time ends November 6th:

As you set your clocks back one hour on Sunday, November 6, we encourage everyone to use the opportunity to do three things for your family:
  • Test your smoke detectors and change the batteries if they are more than one year old.  Nearly 2,700 people die and more than 15,000 are injured each year from fires in their homes.  An estimated 16 million American homes have smoke detectors that don’t work…don’t let yours be one!
  • Make sure you have working carbon monoxide detectors in your home.  Carbon monoxide is the leading cause of accidental poisoning deaths in the United States, with nearly 500 people killed and more than 20,000 people visiting the emergency room each year from overexposure to the gas.  You should have a carbon monoxide detector on every level of your home, including the basement.
  • Build an emergency supply kit for your family with enough food, water and supplies to last you and your family for at least three days.  For a list of kit ideas, visit the ReadyWisconsin website.  
Nationwide EAS test: 

The first ever nationwide EAS test will take place on Wednesday, November 9 at 1:00 p.m. Central Time.  This event will mark the first time all broadcasters nationwide (including satellite and cable television providers) will send out a message at the same time.  The alert on your TV screen or over your radio will look and sound much like the emergency tests that we are all familiar with. 

Winter Awareness Week – November 7-11, 2011: 

ReadyWisconsin will kick off its winter safety campaign on Monday.  Wisconsin’s Winter Awareness Week is to remind people to be prepared for winter conditions that could threaten their safety.

The annual campaign is sponsored by ReadyWisconsin and the National Weather Service (NWS).  Throughout the month of November, we will be promoting winter weather safety.  ReadyWisconsin’s Tod Pritchard will be on TV and radio stations throughout Wisconsin providing tips on how to prepare for freezing temperatures and snow.

Be on the lookout for our statewide TV and radio public service announcement featuring NASCAR champion Matt Kenseth.  Once again, Matt is helping us spread the word about the importance of having a winter survival kit in your vehicles.  Also, head to the ReadyWisconsin website for cold weather tips and to sign up for a chance to win a winter survival kit in our trivia contest.  Go to for further details.

To stay in touch with all of our activities and preparedness campaigns during this busy time, keep an eye on ReadyWisconsin on Facebook ( and Twitter (

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Recent Nuclear Drill a True Team Effort

- Teri Engelhart, Radiological Emergency Preparedness Program Manager

In early October, Wisconsin Emergency Management and Kewaunee and Manitowoc Counties successfully completed an evaluated nuclear power plant exercise. It seems that as soon as one exercise is done, it’s time to start working on the next one. Actually, it doesn’t just seem that way…it is that way. Having wrapped up the exercise the morning of October 4th, the Radiological Emergency Preparedness (REP) unit retreated to our office and continued working on the April 2012 Point Beach Nuclear Plant and July 2012 Prairie Island Nuclear Generating Plant exercises.

Radiological exercises require months of planning by an exercise design team and the participation of hundreds of people. Participants from the counties include emergency managers, first responders and other organizations such as agricultural extension, human services, school districts and public health. At the state level, departments such as Health Services; Natural Resources; Children and Families; and Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection participate and coordinate with their counterparts at the impacted counties. Volunteer organizations including the American Red Cross and ARES/RACES (licensed radio amateurs) participate in both the counties and the state. In addition, a large number of staff members from the nuclear power plant are involved as well.

Representatives from a number of state and federal agencies
take part in the drill at the State Emergency Operations Center.
These exercises are evaluated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Recently, federal agencies have increased their level of participation and are testing their own activation processes and procedures. Present in the State Emergency Operations Center during our October 4th exercise were representatives from FEMA and the National Regulatory Commission.

Agencies that could not be physically present in the state or county emergency operations centers (EOC) or at the plant are utilizing other methods to participate. The U.S. Department of Defense’s Consequence Management Home Team and a Federal Advisory Team participated by phone, much as they would in a real event. This federal participation gave our usual group of players a new perspective – a more realistic vision of how our EOC would operate during an actual nuclear emergency.  As we develop future exercises, we plan to progressively build on these activities with the federal agencies.

While REP exercises take a long time to plan and a substantial time commitment from many organizations, they have an inherent value. Almost every component of a REP exercise can be applied to other hazard responses, such as severe weather events. Notification, communications and public information are all functions that would be necessary for any response, and we get plenty of practice during REP exercises. The relationships that are formed during these exercises can be extremely valuable when we are responding to a real event. I’d like to think that the REP program contributes to preparing our state and county agencies for a successful response to any disaster that we may have to face.

Friday, September 30, 2011

First Impressions from a New Regional Director

- Lisa Olson-McDonald, West Central Region Director

Lisa Olson-McDonald (far right) joins Governor Scott Walker,
Maj. Gen. Don Dunbar and WEM Administrator Brian Satula
in meeting with Clark County residents affected by a tornado
in late August.
On August 1, I began the next chapter in my career by becoming the West Central Regional Director for Wisconsin Emergency Management.  Having grown up and graduated from college in La Crosse, it has always been my goal to eventually return to the Coulee Region.  I have worked in Madison for more than 13 years of my professional career, so it is nice to finally “come home.” 

As what seems to be typical of emergency management careers, three weeks into the job, a tornado struck Clark County on August 23.  When the scene was secure, I was able to visit residents whose homes were destroyed.  The stories that they told were extraordinary and it is amazing that none of these residents were seriously injured.  Everyone spoke of how members of the community came to help within hours of the tornado.  One of the most remarkable aspects of this job is to witness the generosity of people, both of those who work in the profession and of those who find themselves in the midst of a crisis.

I’m finding out pretty quickly that this is a “jack of all trades” job.  My major task is to help counties prepare for emergencies and to assist them when disaster strikes.  Between disasters, I work with counties to make certain their disaster plans are in place with the State and I help them to work through the process of finding financial help to recoup expenses from emergency responses.  Due to the proximity of the Prairie Island Nuclear Generating Plant in Red Wing, Minnesota, I will work continue to work closely with Pierce County to support them in the unlikely event of a power plant disruption…given that I worked as a radiological emergency planner for four years prior to this regional director position, that part of the job should be familiar!

The West Central region consists of 13 counties:  St. Croix; Dunn; Chippewa; Taylor; Clark; Jackson; Monroe; La Crosse; Trempealeau; Buffalo; Pepin; Pierce and Eau Claire; as well as one tribe, the Ho-Chunk Nation.  I’ve had the opportunity to meet with each of the counties’ emergency management directors, and I know that we have a great team looking out for the residents of West Central Wisconsin.  With the nature of what we do, I will never know from week to week who may need support from a devastating storm or man-caused event, so starting off with such a kind reception from the counties gives me the confidence of knowing that we will always do what it takes to support the people of the region in a time of need.

Being the regional director for a 13-county area is a serious responsibility, but one that will certainly be rewarding.  Emergency management is an exciting field, and I look forward to the surprises and successes that this new position will provide.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

September Preparedness Kicks Off with a Ready Road Trip

- Tod Pritchard, Preparedness Coordinator for ReadyWisconsin

Lights…Camera…Take Action!

Call it our “Ready road trip.”  Barneveld, Stevens Point, Green Bay…all in one day…to videotape a very important television public service announcement (or "PSA") airing across the state this September.  The message: get ready for emergencies.

September is Preparedness Month here in Wisconsin and across the nation.  At Wisconsin Emergency Management, our ReadyWisconsin preparedness program wanted to come up with a way to remember the victims of the 9/11 attacks (hard to believe this is the 10th anniversary of that terrible day).  To honor them and the first responders who protect us every day, we thought it would be great to highlight first responders in a 30-second TV commercial urging everyone to prepare for future emergencies and disasters.  We call this campaign: “A Time to Remember.  A Time to Prepare.”

So we started calling law enforcement and fire departments around Wisconsin to see who would help us out.  The response was overwhelming.  Dozens of police officers, sheriffs and firefighters said they would be glad to assist.  We narrowed down the participants  based on their availabilities and the availability of the camera crew that would have to dash across the state to collect the footage.

Brandon Wilhelm, Barneveld Police

I drove with a local video team to Barneveld to meet Officer Brandon Wilhelm.  Beautiful sunshine, great for our video shoot.  We set up the equipment on a bike trail near the Barneveld water tower.  Peaceful and quiet…a perfect spot.  Of course just as Officer Wilhelm arrived a huge tow truck pulled up on a nearby street to load up a disabled car.  BEEP… BEEP…BEEP.  His back-up alarm went off for the next ten minutes!  Brandon was very patient and did a great job after the beeping stopped.  

The video crew lines up a shot
of the Stevens Point Fire team.
Then it was on to Stevens Point where we met up with Interim Fire Chief Tracey Kujawa and members of her fire department.  We met them down by the Wisconsin River.  Again peaceful and perfect.  Then the lawn crew at the nearby park showed up with mowers blazing.  Oh no, not again!  But when the mowers moved on, Kujawa and her team were perfect.  

Firefighter David Siegel
and the Brown County
Hazardous Materials Response Team
Then on to Green Bay where the Brown County Hazardous Materials Response Team met us along the Fox River.  No noise issues here, just some clouds that blocked our sunshine every once in a while.  We found out that David Siegel from the Hazmat Team is a huge Detroit Red Wings fan.  It was 80 degrees and the guy couldn’t get hockey off his mind.  

During a separate road trip we taped Brian Satula, our new Wisconsin Emergency Management Administrator here in Madison.  Brian did a great job despite having to run in and out of meetings long enough to shoot his part.  Also stepping in front of the camera was Wisconsin Capitol Police Chief Charles Tubbs and Dodge County Sheriff Todd Nehls.  We just made it through Sheriff Nehls's taping session before it started to rain.   

WEM Administrator Brian Satula
The PSA really came together.  I’m very thankful to all the men and women who took part in the making of this message.  I hope these first responders will inspire all of us to take just a few minutes out of our busy lives to think about getting ready for disaster.

Click here to check out the video and meet the participants.

Just follow these three steps can get you and your family ready for an emergency:

Charles Tubbs,
Wisconsin Capitol Police Chief
Keep enough emergency supplies on hand for you and your family – water, non-perishable food, first aid kit, prescriptions, flashlight, and a battery-powered radio. If you own pets, remember to include their food and supplies.

Click here for a complete emergency kit checklist
Discuss and agree on an emergency plan with your family.
Dodge County Sheriff Todd Nehls
Click here for a Family Emergency Plan 

Knowing the dangers and making good decisions can save your life. Here are just a few examples of where to get great information:

Click here to sign up for ReadyWisconsin on Twitter

Click here to sign up for ReadyWisconsin on Facebook
Click here for more information on emergency radios
ReadyWisconsin's Tod Pritchard
shows off the program's
new emergency supply kits

As part of our campaign we’re giving away free emergency kits. Just play our ReadyWisconsin Trivia Challenge for a chance to win a kit.  Click here to visit the trivia page on the ReadyWisconsin website.
Individuals and families are the most important members of the nation’s emergency management team. Being prepared can save precious time and save lives.

I speak to clubs and organizations all across Wisconsin. I’d be happy to talk to you about emergency planning. Just drop me an email:

Honor the 9/11 victims by making sure you and your family are ready!