The Prairie Doc Perspective

Be prepared

By Richard P. Holm MD

The official Boy Scout motto has, since inception, advised us to “be prepared,” to be on the ready for any emergency, having thought out beforehand how to protect ourselves from disaster. In this part of the country, a significant risk for disaster comes from tornados, flooding, fires, and winter blizzards. To “be prepared” is a motto suitable for all living on the prairie, and examples abound.

This spring a rogue storm hit a prairie lake on a late afternoon killing one unfortunate person in a trailer-home huddled in the bathtub trying to avoid injury. That person may have been saved by leaving the trailer home and seeking shelter in a neighbor’s permanent home, or even by finding a low spot or ditch, getting low, and covering the head. Experts advise never staying in a trailer home when tornado-like winds are expected.

Flooding from too fast springtime thaws can cause tremendous damage to communities. Authorities advise us to know how to turn off electricity, gas lines, water sources, and to close off sewer lines, all when flooding is anticipated, in order to avoid injury to individual property and to free up public resources to help others.

Recently a middle of the night home fire engulfed a Sioux Falls residence killing a person by smoke and oxygen deprivation, the fourth death by fire this year in Sioux Falls. That individual may have been saved by having smoke alarms that work, knowing two escape routes from each sleeping room, getting low to find oxygen, and in general being prepared for a fire emergency.

Last winter a sudden blizzard caught a person in a vehicle and the individual died trying to walk to a nearby farmstead. Had that person kept at least a half a tank of gas, a cell phone, and a sleeping bag in the vehicle, while staying put; a life may have been saved. In prairie vehicles, a blizzard kit is essential. And each family should have blizzard or disaster gear stored away in their home including three gallons of clean water per person, enough food for three days, a crank radio, flashlights, candles, and first aid.

No one else can make your personal family disaster plan for you. Hindsight is always 20-20, but having the foresight to be prepared could save your life.

Dr. Rick Holm wrote this Prairie Doc Perspective for “On Call®,” a weekly program where medical professionals discuss health concerns for the general public.  “On Call®” is produced by the Healing Words Foundation in association with the South Dakota State University Journalism Department. “On Call®” airs Thursdays on South Dakota Public Broadcasting-Television at 7 p.m. Central, 6 p.m. Mountain. Visit us at 

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