“We're seeing some panic and misinformation on coronavirus in NW Oklahoma and it's time to discuss it,” Woodward County Emergency Management Director Lt. Matt Lehenbauer said.

Gauging how concerned people are by the items missing on the shelves at local stores, Lehenbauer rates the amount of information and details he needs to provide to educate the public. Coming up on an impending ice storm, they rate concern by the amount of bread and milk left on store shelves. Recently, he noticed hand sanitizer cleaned off Woodward’s shelves, then bulk rice, beans and dry milk. After a certain post on social media, rubbing alcohol is gone.

“Panic buying is the biggest disaster we're seeing so far from the coronavirus, as it is hurting the medical community that needs those supplies for daily operations. Simply being prepared all the time for anything that can happen is just good common sense,” Lehenbauer said. “We're a government emergency management/disaster preparedness and response agency, and not a news site, so our focus is not to report on every incident that happens in our area, or the country. But instead to make sure you and your family stays informed if a widespread incident occurs so you can thus make a well-informed decision on what to do that is best for your own family.”

According to Lehenbauer, infection numbers are not all correct for a variety of reasons. 

“Lots of people aren't being tested,” Lehenbauer said. “because of public stigma, or dis-concern with mild symptoms that they don't feel a need to see a doctor for.”

Respond like it’s flu season, taking the same precautions:

• Wash your hands regularly with soap and water. Hand sanitizer isn’t as effective and should only be used when you can’t use soap and water.

• Sanitize the bathroom anything touched by someone who has been exposed or has symptoms.

• If someone in the home gets a fever, isolate them as much as possible. Facemasks on the sick are more useful than on everyone else.

“Over the last few weeks we've been teaching elementary students about emergency preparedness,” Lehenbauer said. ”The same principals hold true with us all. It's not being a "doomsday prepper" to have an emergency bag ready all the time, and at least a few days of non-perishable food and meds at the house. Truth is, Northwest Oklahoma is one of the most disaster-prone areas in the US. Not an exaggeration. We've seen everything but a volcano, tsunami and zombies over the last 10 years.”

Having experienced his family trapped in the house from a blizzard for a week with no power, Lehenbauer makes sure plenty of food and wood are stored just in case, well ahead of any issues that could arise. 

“I think that's just good common sense, and not overdoing it or being paranoid,” Lehenbauer said. “If there is a wildfire, tornado, ice storm, or if someone has a medical emergency that requires extended hospitalization, do you have the basics ready to go on a moment's notice?”

Here's an essentials list that should be kept in the emergency pack/kit, or "boogie bag":

• Spare undergarments (socks, underwear)

• Travel toothbrush, toothpaste, bar of soap, washcloth (in ziplock baggies)

• Spare ziplock baggies (to put cell phone/electronics in so they don't get wet, etc.)

• Flashlight & a spare set of batteries (for power outages, etc.)

• Multitool (for the adult bags, as an all-purpose tool)

• Work gloves (good for wintertime and for emergency use)

• Large bandanna or shemagh (multiple uses)

• Snacks/food (low in weight that has a long expiration date, such as jerkey, nuts, granola, etc.)

• Bottle of water

• Lighter or waterproof matches (to light candles, re-light a pilot light, etc.)

• Copy of home, auto and medical insurance verification (this verifies your address to first responders if you can't get into your neighborhood after a disaster, and also is quickly available in an emergency)

• Spare copy of ID, passport, social security cards for the family, etc.

• A portable NOAA Weather Radio with spare batteries, so that you can receive emergency notices and information. We use these radios to transmit not only severe weather messages, but information on wildfires, hazardous materials incidents, or even national emergencies.

• An AM/FM portable radio with extra batteries, to monitor news briefs and emergency information.

• A spare phone charger. Old cellular phones can even be kept in your bag, and will still call 911 even if deactivated.

For a more extensive kit, you can add things that will allow for a little more comfort in different seasons and situations, such as:

• Stocking cap/scarf in winter

• Rain poncho

• Small fleece blanket, or mylar "emergency blanket"

Spare diapers, bottle and formula are essential for families with a baby as well. Lehenbauer also recommends a comfort item for young children, like a stuffed animal or coloring book.

"Just simply think, if the power goes out, if I'm trapped in my shelter for a day, if I'm stuck in the car in a blizzard, if the house gets hit by a tornado, if I have to make an emergency trip to the hospital, etc., what are the essentials that I'd need, that are light and can fit in my pack?," Lehenbauer said.

In conclusion, Lehenbauer encourages everyone take a commonsense approach. Don’t be scared, be prepared.

“I am planning to do our first online class on the Ready Woodward Facebook page on Wednesday, March 25th at 10 a.m.,” Lehenbauer said. “It will cover the basics of building an emergency kit, and will cover additional information for small children, businesses, and how to build a more extensive kit for your family.”

For Woodward COVID-19 updates, visit readywoodward.com/woodward-county-covid-19-updates.html which will be updated as information becomes available.

Visit coronavirus.health.ok.gov for updated information about COVID-19 in Oklahoma.

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