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Jim Totten teaches Rotary about being prepared

The Carmi Rotary club learned about the importance of being prepared at Thursday’s meeting. The Emergency Manager of White County, Jim Totten, was the day’s guest speaker, and he left the club with lots to think about.


Photo credit Kenneth Dwain Harrelson

Jim started out asking the club what they would guess is tops the list with the highest potential to happen in White County. Some guessed a tornado, others thought an earthquake, but Jim informed the club that the top worry he has is a HAZMAT accident.

As Jim explained, there are trucks going up and down the county roads all day long, every day of the week. As he said, some of them carrying things that we couldn’t even pronounce, but things that are deadly. He told the club that a major wreck of one of these tankers on Main Street in Carmi could shut down the whole community.

Jim said with that in mind, the county has an emergency plan. He also said what keeps him up at night is knowing that 16,000 people in White County depend on him to have that plan in place and ready to go.

Jim explained that every three years the state requires each county to update and refile their emergency plans. This plan has to be very specific, and it has to cover everything from the police’s role, to what the county coroner must do during an emergency.

Jim went on to lay out for the Rotarians, a list of items that every person should have in a safe and readily available spot in their homes. As he explained, in case of a tornado or an earthquake, things are going to be very confusing, and it can literally be a matter of life and death if you can find these emergency supplies quickly.

The list included: a whistle, Jim explained that after twelve hours of screaming, a person’s voice will give out. A simple whistle might be what the rescuers will hear to save you. Also on the list; a first aid kit, a lantern with rechargeable batteries, flashlights, extra batteries, extra medications (these need to be rotated throughout the year to keep fresh ones on hand), extra clothes, hats, blankets and coats, a tent (if you have one), and soups and other canned meats – enough to survive three days. Jim also stressed that everyone needs to have plenty of water on hand. He said the rule is each person needs three gallons a day to survive.

Jim stated that the state of Illinois has said it could take up to 72 hours for large scale rescue operations to reach us here, which is why he stresses making sure you have supplies to last at least three days.

Jim also made it clear he doesn’t enjoy having to work with the state and the massive bureaucracy in Springfield. He said what used to be a 5 page budget form, he now has to fill out a 35 page budget that actually requires him to list out how many pencils he needs, how much paper, even how much toilet paper. As Jim put it, the folks in Springfield have to justify their jobs, and most of them have never been to Southern Illinois.

In club business, the decision was made to start planning a chili supper fundraiser for January 14th. The exact time and place will be determined within the next few weeks.

The club also discussed the need for new members. With an aging club, it is vital for the Carmi Rotary club to attract and pick up new members that will be able to keep the club going far into the future.

Lynn Stephens won the 50/50 drawing but did not claim the day’s cash prize. Kelly Pyle named Cindy Conley as the day’s phantom.

The Carmi Rotary club meets every Thursday at noon at the First United Methodist Church in Carmi. Anyone wishing to learn more about this worldwide civic club is more than welcome to attend a meeting or speak with any Carmi Rotarian.