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For emergencies, hope isn’t a plan

May 17, 2018

Smoke from the explosion at the Husky Oil Refinery in Superior, Wis., rises over homes nearby.
​The April 26 explosion at the Husky Oil Refinery in Superior, Wisconsin was a good reminder to be as prepared as possible for emergencies and disasters.



None of us can see the future, so it’s impossible to know if and when an emergency will occur. But simply hoping a disaster won’t happen won’t help you survive and recover when it does. Hope is good, but it’s not a plan. So when something happens like the April 26 fire at the Husky Refinery in Superior, Wisconsin, you need to be ready.

There are two refineries in the Twin Cities area—one in St. Paul Park, and another on the border of Rosemount and Inver Grove Heights. Minnesota is also home to two nuclear generating plants as well as many other types of facilities that use hazardous materials. So if you live near one, you need to have an emergency plan.

The people of Superior didn’t know when they left for school and work that morning that they would have to evacuate their homes before the end of the day. But it’s safe to say that those who had emergency kits packed, a family emergency communications plan in place, and who knew where to take temporary shelter had an easier time of it. Put simply, you can’t make those kinds of decisions when you have minutes to evacuate your home.

Making emergency plans like these may seem daunting. Fortunately, FEMA and the Homeland Security and Emergency Management (HSEM) division spend the bulk of their time preparing for disasters. FEMA, for example, has assembled a list of six things to know and do before a disaster:

  1. Know where your gas shutoff valve is.
  2. Know where your electrical shutoff is.
  3. Make an emergency communication plan.
  4. Make sure you have insurance.
  5. Have a plan for your pets.
  6. Know your evacuation routes.

Your digital devices can help you receive emergency alerts and warnings, but you also need to prepare for disaster in a digital world. In case there’s no electricity, though, you should have an emergency financial first aid kit at the ready. Knowing how to contact your county’s emergency manager is important, too, so that you can report damages and other losses in an emergency.

So even if you don’t have a crystal ball that will tell you when a refinery fire or other disaster is coming, you can still be prepared. Consider your life circumstances that may present unique challenges in an emergency. For instance, where will you go with your pets? How will you reunite with your children at school? What happens if a loved one’s hospital or assisted living center evacuates? Take a few minutes, gather a few essentials, have a few conversations now – so that when the time comes, you and your family will be able to take action to survive and recover from a disaster.