spring of 2003, a natural disaster occurred in the Nobody Left Behind researchers’ own community.
A tornado touched down on May 8, 2003 in southwest Lawrence, Kansas
causing 6.4 million in damages to homes, businesses, a school, and six
apartment buildings. A handful of people reportedly sought medical assistance
for injuries at the local hospital. Over a 100 people had to seek temporary
shelter with relatives or friends. Three apartment buildings where many
college students lived were later condemned and demolished due to the
“Minutes after the tornado lifted … the streets were clogged with sightseers in cars and on foot. Emergency officials were frustrated with the gawkers, saying the traffic was hampering rescue and recovery efforts.” -Lawrence Journal-World, 5/9/2003
“It’s emotional,” said County Commissioner Charles Jones, who helped in the clean-up effort. “People are sort of at ends of their wits, and they’ll see something that’s sentimental and they’ll burst into tears.” –Lawrence Journal-World, 5/11/03
The Research and Training Center on Independent Living (RTC/IL) and Douglas County Emergency Management sponsored a Town Hall meeting on July 23, 2003 regarding the impact the tornado had on persons with disabilities. There were 26 attendees, primarily from the emergency response fields. However, no residents impacted by the tornado, including those with disabilities.
At the Town Hall meeting emergency personnel speak out about preparedness.
“Take responsibility for yourself. Prepare a little better than everyone else and you’ll be more comfortable in the end, because a shelter is really not a place you want to be”
Matt May, Disaster Director, American Red Cross, Douglas County Chapter
“First, have a good list of your medications and your other needs. Have a little bag of your own to be ready for emergencies, and in that bag have a one to two day supply of your medicine.” Richard Gist, Assistant to the Director of the KCMO Fire Department
“The reality is, that in order for people to be prepared, to begin to take preparedness action, they have to be able to imagine and believe that the worst can happen.” Paula Phillips, Director of Douglas County Emergency Management
“You may not in your life face a tornado. You may not in your life deal with a terrorist attack, but the odds are very strong that personal emergencies will strike you several times in the course of your life. Prepare for those things.” Paula Phillips, Director of Douglas County Emergency Management
“When planning for people with special needs, say the elderly or people with disabilities, we don’t know who you are, where you are, or what you need?” William Stark, Battalion Chief, Lawrence-Douglas County Fire and Medical Department
“If you have the capacity to make sure you are able to be identified, to make your needs known, to care for yourself until we are able to get to you…then you will have a head start on being able to address the things that are larger. Eventually the large things will find you.” Paula Phillips, Director of Douglas County Emergency Management
“This is just the start of the conversation. Persistence is the only thing that creates change. I invite the community to think about these things.” Matt May, Disaster Director, American Red Cross, Douglas County Chapter
What was reaffirmed from the results of the Town Hall meeting was best expressed by Erin Lynch, Emergency Services Administrator. She further noted “There is a small window of opportunity following a disaster, when people are more ready and receptive to hear about information and to take action. What happens is that people create in their minds a sense of urgency from the event that wasn’t there a day earlier. So, try to capitalize on those windows of opportunities, which aren’t always convenient and include that in your overall strategy to increase citizen preparedness.”
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