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Mendonites learn ‘what to do with your poo’ in an emergency

September 16th, 2010 Posted in Arts and Life

By Storee Powell

MENDON–Emergency preparedness is something Mendon residents hear a great deal about. One local woman said people need it to be more exciting because they are tired of hearing about it. Sanitation training, for example, could be called, “You and your poo, and what to do,” she said.

“People would come if we called it that, I know they would.,” said Elissa Edlund, a Mendon resident helping with community emergency preparations,. “Since we hear this to be prepared for emergencies often from church and community, we have deaf ears to it. We can’t push it down people’s throats, but we can make it more fun.”

More fun was Carolee Barret’s goal during the first Mendon “Share the Harvest” dinner Saturday at Pioneer Park. Plates full of soft zucchini bread, piles of steaming corn on the cob, and plenty of raspberries decorated the picnic tables.

Barret, a bubbly, short-haired blonde, said the Harvest Dinner was not to talk “doom and gloom” but was a way for neighbors to get to know each other better and learn who has what supplies and training while sharing their fall harvests with each other.

“We have eight rows of corn, and zucchini coming out of our ears, so I knew this would be a perfect way to share it,” Barret said. “If people know each other, they will be more giving and accepting of help during a time of disaster. I don’t want people to feel they can’t ask for help.”

Mendon residents have a tradition of putting on block parties every summer, but it is only recently they have taken on the tone of emergency preparedness. The community had a fair at the end of March at the Mountainside Elementary. Barret, who helped prepare the fair, said that 50-60 distributors of preparedness items came and specialists taught things like how to get out of debt, start seeds into sprouts, and how to store water.

Getting everyone organized

All poo and zucchini aside, Barret said preparations are serious because things can happen, and being ready and organized is critical.

Mendon is organized by nine LDS wards based on a geographical area, starting with Petersboro and ending at the south end of Mendon, said 72-year-old John W. Engler, one of six block captains for the Mendon 1st Ward.

“The organization really has nothing to do with the LDS Church, it is just a way to organize everyone, including non-LDS people. The areas also include Young Ward and College Ward,” Engler said.

The duties of a block captain require them to check on 15-16 families for emergency preparations and during an emergency. To keep things as orderly as possible, packets of information are given out to each family that contains emergency checklists, phone numbers and four window signs. The green sign says, “All is well”; the yellow sign, “Need non-critical help”; the red sign, “Need immediate help”; and the white sign, “Death.”

People putting these signs in their windows helps block captains know where to stop and help and where they can pass, saving time and energy. The block captains report to a superior for orders and the superior reports to the Mendon Fire Department.

One way the captains plan to communicate during a time of disaster is through ham radios. In case a block captain is not present during an emergency, the assistant block captain takes over. For the Mendon 1st Ward block No. 6, it is Bruce Thorne.

“We need to keep everyone from running to the fire station because they will be busy. Also, phone lines may not work so this is a way to assist each other,” Engler said. We try to deal with problems within the block. Also, each family is responsible for caring for themselves as much as they can.”

What you should do to help

The block captains, according to Engler, are there to assist the civil authorities as they request. In the case of evacuation orders from the Mendon Fire Department, captains will direct people where to go.

Residents are encouraged to have 72-hour-kits in their homes or cars, which contain essentials like flashlights, a change of clothes and a water bottle. Residents are also urged to get Red Cross first-aid and Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT) training. The CERT Program, according to the CERT website, is a government program that “educates people about disaster preparedness for hazards that may impact their area and trains them in basic disaster response skills, such as fire safety, light search and rescue, team organization, and disaster medical operations.”

The most likely type of emergencies to occur in Mendon are earthquakes, mountain fires and water restrictions, Engler said.

A common problem in Mendon is culinary water contamination. Engler said that recently the city well had nitrate levels that were too high. Residents can learn if it is OK to use culinary water from signs at the entrance of the city as well as at the post office, another emergency preparation. Green indicates OK to use and red means do not use culinary water.

Power outages are another serious problem, Elissa Edlund said.

“Mendon is notorious for power shortages. During a recent one, I found my flashlight but no good batteries. I went and bought some next day because even though it was a minor detail, it was stressful,” Edlund said.

Another problem caused by power outages are medications that must be kept cold, like insulin shots. Kim Wengreen, Mendon resident and friend of Edlund, said her daughter has diabetes so to prepare they bought a generator and a little fridge in to keep the medication cool.

Wengreen said, “You think it can never happen here, not to you. But it can.”

Edlund said it is easy to get overwhelmed because it seems like so much work, but people can start small, even college students.

Write down important phone numbers

“Go to the Deseret Industries and buy an old backpack. Then go to a dollar store and buy a few things to put in the backpack like a flashlight,” Edlund said. “Also, make a phone number list since cell phones may not work during an emergency.”

Wengreen said water is the most important thing to store, and not just for drinking. Sometimes emergencies can cause secondary problems, like dysentery from lack of cleanliness. Storing water for cleaning and bathing is important.

Case in point: Edlund recently went camping in the Mendon Mountains, and took with her a little bucket with a toilet seat and bag. “It worked great until I got to the car. I didn’t know what to do with it, it was a mess, sloshing around. I learned I need to have gloves, and treat it like battery acid. Washing hands is really important during a time of disaster to prevent disease.”

It is no laughing matter that Mendon residents are determined to know what to do with their poo in case of emergency.


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