THE ISSUE: Winter storm cuts power for many
OUR VIEW: Safety is a community responsibility
Stop us if you’ve heard this before —actually, don’t. Today’s message bears repeating because it’s a reminder of the power of community.
The Interstate 80 corridor got brutalized by the year’s first major snowfall Sunday and Monday. Winter Storm Bruce — yes, they have names now — contributed to road closures, vehicle trouble and widespread power outages. We don’t need to rehash the details, especially considering most folks reading this can just look out the window and realize we’ll be in a world of white for the foreseeable future.
What does bear repeating, however, is a call to action that most folks can answer. Broadly, it’s the idea we come together during extreme weather events to work toward keeping everyone safe. This starts at home by, as soon as practical, clearing sidewalks and front steps for passersby, letter carriers and delivery workers.
If there is a fire hydrant on or near your property, it’s best to try to remove any snow and ice from the hydrant, clear a perimeter of about three feet all around as well as a path from the hydrant to the street. We all hope the hydrants are never needed for their intended purpose, but every second counts in an emergency.
It’s also a good idea to check in on people who might be unable to clear snow from their own properties or could be struggling to stay warm. This is especially a concern when there are power outages affecting large swaths of properties. Many police departments are willing to stop by your older relative’s house just to make sure things are OK, but these officers generally have pressing duties to attend to, especially so when weather makes driving hazardous.
Besides the idea of keeping police free to respond to emergencies, the hope is we know our friends, family and neighbors better than do the police. For example, if your elderly next-door neighbor lets the dog out literally every morning, it could be a red flag to see that pup’s anxious face pressed against the window.
It might seem like common sense to make suggestions to stay connected, but increasingly many of us live lives where we don’t know our neighbors’ names or cellphone numbers. We might give a friendly wave while out cutting grass at the same time in the summer, but would we know which relative to call if we saw the older man down the block slip on his icy front steps and take a serious spill?
In a way, it was comforting to hear Streator Salvation Army Service Center Director Judy Booze say hardly anyone used her facility as a warming center Monday, as that indicates people were safe at home. But it could’ve been a sign that someone who needed the help didn’t have the means to get there, and that would represent a larger failure of the social safety net.
Take care of yourself and your family. And then, see if anyone else needs help. It’s not a revolutionary message, but it is worth putting out into the world every so often. We can all do a small part to make our communities safer, and sometimes all it takes is a phone call.