Tammy VanOverBeke, the Lyon County emergency management director, and Ted Stamp, an employee of the Southwestern Center for Independent Living, are on a mission to educate Minnesotans with unique challenges about emergency preparedness.
The pair have developed a disaster-preparedness presentation for those with special needs ranging from language barriers to physical or mental challenges, and deliver it around southwest Minnesota.
In ESL classes, they teach the students the importance of being able to understand the directions of law enforcement or other emergency management personnel, and the importance of planning ahead. Some are shocked to hear that it is possible to have limited or no cell service in a time of crisis, and that text messages are preferred over phone calls to ease the burden on strained phone lines.
Those at assisted living facilities greatly appreciate kits that are handed out during their discussions. The kits include pamphlets with further information, whistles to alert authorities of their location, and a key ring on which to place spare home or car keys.
“It’s critical to get out and actually meet the people you want to teach about preparedness,” Stamp said. “They take the message to heart when it’s based on personal interaction with someone they trust.”
In recognition of their efforts, VanOverBeke and Stamp recently received the Association of Minnesota Emergency Managers' Preparedness Award.