JoCo on the Go Podcast: Preparedness Month

On episode #158 of JoCo on the Go, we discuss National Preparedness Month, and steps you can take to make sure you’re ready for a potential disaster. We also cover how to sign up for NotifyJoCo to be able to keep up with the latest information in an emergency situation. Whether you might be facing a fire, a flood or other hazardous event, we help outline a path you can take so you can face the risks from a disaster that could happen at any time.

JoCo on the Go Preview: Preparedness Month

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Time Subject
00:41 Introduction
02:42 Tips to prepare for emergencies
04:56 Types of emergencies to prepare for
08:19 How older adults can prepare
09:51 Sign up for NotifyJoCo
13:09 Other ways to stay informed


Andy Hyland 0:01 

When disaster strikes, will you be ready? This September is National Preparedness Month. It's a time to remind all of us of some steps we can take now to be ready with some actions before, during and after an emergency. That next incident may be a tornado, flood, power outage or fire. But whatever it is, you can make sure you're equipped to handle anything we may encounter.

Announcer 0:27 

Whether you live in or just love Johnson County, Kansas, JoCo on the Go has everything Johnson County. Here's what's happening and what's coming up in the community you call home.

Andy Hyland 0:41 

Thanks for joining us for JoCo on the Go. I'm your host, Andy Hyland. I am a resident of Johnson County, and I work in the communications department at Johnson County Government. My two guests are here today to talk about how residents can take control during a disaster. And that may be a natural disaster or a power outage or some other event. And Claire Canaan works in our Emergency Management division here in Johnson County. And so Claire, can you introduce yourself and maybe tell us a little bit about your role?

Claire Canaan 1:11 

Absolutely. Thank you for having me, first off. I always enjoy being on this podcast and sharing all kinds of tips for people to be better prepared. I am with, as Andy said, assistant director of community preparedness with Emergency Management, which is a division of the Johnson County Department of Emergency Services. In my role, a lot of my responsibilities revolve around organizing community outreach and education opportunities, as well as leading the training and exercise program for the Emergency Management division.

Andy Hyland 1:43 

Excellent. That's great. And we also have joining us Kelly Fry, whose day job is communications manager at WaterOne. But she's here with us to talk a little bit about NotifyJoCo. Kelly, why don't you introduce yourself to us real quick.

Kelly Fry 1:56 

Hi there. Yes, thanks for having me. Kelly Fry, communications manager with WaterOne. I've been with WaterOne for over 10 years now, and I love communicating about water to our customers. And of course, emergency response is part of that. So I'm on the marketing committee for NotifyJoCo to try to bridge that gap of communication of how we let folks know about this amazing emergency alert system and how we use it in the county.

Andy Hyland 2:24 

Great. Claire, why don't we start with you. And as somebody who works in emergency management, preparedness I know is on your mind every single day. But what are some high-level things people ought to be considering during this September National Preparedness Month to help make sure they're getting ready for disasters?

Claire Canaan 2:42 

Yeah, there's a lot of things that people can do to get better prepared for disaster. And I totally understand it can be overwhelming. But we always try to start with the very basics of have a plan, build a kit and be informed. Having a plan, it's as simple as setting your preparedness goals and having a plan. If you live with others, making sure that everyone in that household knows what that plan is. And even when you have the opportunity to practice that plan. And then talking about it and making sure everybody is on the same page with what they're going to be doing. Building a kit, an easy to grab backpack or duffel bag filled with some essential items to get you through those first 72 hours following a disaster. Water, granola bars, chargers, medication, extra clothing are just a few of those things. And then being informed, knowing how you're going to receive emergency notification. Knowing where the trusted sources are on social media, the news media, local government social media sites, Emergency Management, the National Weather Service. Knowing where you can go to get additional information when an emergency or disaster is happening.

Andy Hyland 3:48 

And you talk about knowing where to go to get that additional information. I think one of the things you're going to be doing this month is you're going to be posting some stuff about National Preparedness Month on your social media. So talk a little bit about what people can expect to see there and where they can find it.

Claire Canaan 4:03 

Yeah, so you can find us on social media at @jocoemergency. Throughout the month of September, we will be hosting the 30 Days, 30 Ways social media campaign, which basically every day we will provide a different tip or activity that people can do or go follow up and get more information on that leaves them better prepared for any disaster or emergency that they may experience. We're also going to be able to pinpoint tools and resources that are available to folks to help them complete those activities.

Andy Hyland 4:37 

And so when we say emergency or disaster, what kind of things are we talking about? I mean, I know it can range the gamut. And I know from my own experience in this world, people say sometimes it's best to prepare for a zombie apocalypse. But I don't know if I don't know if we're gonna have one of those, but what kinds of things are we talking about?

Claire Canaan 4:57 

It doesn't hurt to prepare, right? Prepare for anything. No, so an emergency can be anything that is serious, unexpected, often dangerous situation and it will require immediate action to stay safe. When we're talking about emergencies, especially here in Kansas and Johnson County, the first things that pop into people's minds are tornadoes, the severe weather emergencies: tornadoes, thunderstorms, flooding, hail, the strong winds that we've recently experienced with some of the storms can actually...they're actually hurricane strength winds, but we don't actually get hurricanes here in the middle of the United States. But so those types of situations. But then to expand on that, we also want folks to remember that emergencies can be things like fires or hazmat spills, civil disorder, active shooters, national emergencies, pretty much you name it. If it's something that's going to disrupt your day-to-day life and your day-to-day operations. We want people to have even just a very basic idea or plan of what they would do in a situation like that.

Andy Hyland 6:03 

Very good. Very good. And you mentioned your 30 Days, 30 Ways tips. I wonder if you have just a couple of those that you could share with us, maybe one that's your favorite, or a couple that are particularly helpful.

Claire Canaan 6:16 

Yeah, I was thinking about this earlier. And I was like, you know, the one that I didn't really think about, you know, or ever considered doing was actually having a tornado drill or fire drill in your home. I think all of us as kids experience those kinds of drills in our schools or wherever we may be and you talk about it. But then I was like, oh, to actually do that in your home, it makes a lot of sense, you know? You have these plans, you know what you're going to do when you're at school, but if the tornado comes and it's at night, or it's early in the morning, what are you going to do in your home? Do you have a safe space? Do you know if there's a fire in your house, how you can get out? Do you have a trusted neighbor or another trusted adult next door that you can go and talk to to reunite with your family if you have to leave your home. And so actually having your household go through that process of conducting a drill to practice your plans, I thought something as simple as that, but it makes so much sense. And then the other one was gives a lot of tips and resources for low-cost preparedness. It doesn't have to cost a lot or anything for some of these preparedness tips to get things gathered. A lot of the items that people put in their disaster response kits or their safety kits, their go kits, whatever you call it, are things that you already have in your home. And just looking at that list, being like oh, I can put all these things together in one space, put it in my shelter, wherever I'm gonna be wherever I need it, in my car. Like, it's nice to know that there is a low-cost option for a lot of these things so that everybody can be prepared for emergencies.

Andy Hyland 7:56 

For sure. You mentioned also I think there's a lot of great information posted there. And when I was looking at it, talking, getting ready for this show here, I think one of the things I noticed was that there's a theme this year that they're starting to focus a little bit more on older adults and how older adults can prepare specifically. Do you have any information about that?

Claire Canaan 8:19 

Yeah, so older adults are disproportionately impacted by the types of weather-related emergencies and natural disasters that we are seeing become increasingly more frequent and more severe. And so as older adults, they also have chronic illnesses. There's functional limitations that they may experience or disabilities that make them especially vulnerable. So they can be population that folks don't realize may need to take some extra steps to be the best prepared they could be for response to these emergencies or disasters. They can prepare for disasters, same as all ages, which is by knowing their risks, knowing what the things are that they're going to need help with, building a kit, developing a plan and getting involved. I also encourage families and friends of folks who have maybe older adults in their families to make sure you're checking on them regularly, sharing your plan with them and making sure that if something does happen, if we are finding ourselves in severe weather that you are checking on them. If the power goes out, make sure you are following up with them, making sure they have what they need.

Andy Hyland 9:27 

Very good. Very good. Great information. I think, Kelly, I want to go to you now to talk about NotifyJoCo, which is a wonderful service that we have here in Johnson County for residents, if they can take some steps to take advantage of it more fully. So I think why don't you just start by describing what NotifyJoCo is and how you're connected with it.

Kelly Fry 9:51 

Sure, so NotifyJoCo is a mass alert system for residents of Johnson County. What I really like about it is someone can go to the website and sign up for up to three locations. So as a parent, of course, I have my child's school in there, I used to have his daycare, you can have parents or your work location, and really get targeted emergency alerts about those specific locations. It's free, you can get all kinds of alerts that way. And it's a really good way for all the cities and Johnson County to come together and work together on emergency responses.

Andy Hyland 10:30 

So what kind of messages can you get through that system? What kind of messages are sent?

Kelly Fry 10:34 

Well, of course, you can get water alerts. So that is the primary way WaterOne notifies customers of water outages or main breaks. Because we can target those specific areas and get the messages to the people who really need it. We really love using NotifyJoCo for that, it's the only way we send those alerts. But you can also get city services alerts. So let's say College Boulevard is going to be closed due to a parade or a run, then you can get alerts and be notified of that. Of course, emergency alerts, weather alerts. So all kinds of different emergency alerts. And then also just city impact alerts.

Andy Hyland 11:11 

Wonderful. And how can people sign up to receive alerts, if they're not already?

Kelly Fry 11:16 

Sure. So there's actually multiple ways you can sign up. You can go to our website,, and create your profile there. It's free. Again, you can just plug in those up to three addresses to associate with your profile. You can also text "NotifyJoCo" to 888777, and "NotifyJoCo," all one word, and then it will auto enroll you and send you an email to complete your registration that way.

Andy Hyland 11:44 

You know, when I get an alert, I often get pinged on multiple devices. So that's the way I wanted to sign up. Can you talk through what kind of methods people have? How will they receive an alert when it goes out?

Kelly Fry 11:58 

Sure. So that's the great thing about this system too is we realize people like to be contacted in all forms of ways, maybe all the ways or maybe just one. So you can kind of choose if you would like those alerts via text, phone call, email, and we can send those alerts to you those ways.

Andy Hyland 12:15 

And who provides those notifications? You mentioned WaterOne, who's behind the scenes in doing that, usually?

Kelly Fry 12:23 

Yeah, so there's usually a dedicated person for each jurisdiction in our area who sends those alerts based on whatever their city needs. So for instance, I think like Overland Park, maybe for their Fall Festival will send out alerts saying their street closures. And like WaterOne, of course, we just send out water usage alerts. So each of us use it for different events and emergencies.

Andy Hyland 12:49 

Claire is...I wanted to bring you back in real quick just to talk about how NotifyJoCo works with the rest of the kind of notification systems that Johnson County has to alert people during an emergency. It's not the only thing, it's not the only way you can find out what's going on, right?

Claire Canaan 13:09 

Correct. And that is a message that we really try to put out there before, during and after emergencies is to have multiple ways to receive alerts. Not one way is failproof. So we want to make sure that people are getting the information that they need when they need it. So signing up for NotifyJoCo is a fantastic first step to do that. Sign up to get the notifications, make sure you're receiving them the way you want to receive them: text, phone, email. But then also we do have the outdoor warning siren system in Johnson County that is utilized. If there is a tornado warning issued for the area, those sirens will get sounded. And the message that we want people to take from those is that it is their intention is to alert people who are outside to go inside, seek shelter and seek additional information, figure out what's going on but seek shelter first and get safe. And then follow up to find, you know, those trusted media sources to get additional information about what's going on. So those are some ways. We also recommend folks looking into getting a NOAA all hazards weather radio that can be programmed specific to your county or your location. That is something that you can have in your home that puts off a loud siren sound in your home. Because the outdoor warning sirens are not intended to be heard indoors, and so you can't rely on those to alert you inside. But then, like I said, just having those trusted news sources, Emergency Management social media, National Weather Service, just county government entities that can give you more information about what you need to be doing to stay safe.

Andy Hyland 14:54 

Thank you, and Kelly is there anything else we should know about NotifyJoCo or why people should sign up.

Kelly Fry 15:01 

I think just to stay informed. You know, all we want to do is give you information to help you get through your day, or get through your week and make sure that you stay safe. So it's not a system that sends out a lot of notifications. There are only specific emergency or city notifications that you can select. So I definitely encourage folks to do that. It's specific to you and your life in your area, and it will help you plan for your day.

Andy Hyland 15:28 

Very good. And thanks to all of you for sharing such good information today. And just to summarize a few items we covered and where to learn more. This September is National Preparedness Month. You can follow along and Johnson County's social media accounts. You should sign up for NotifyJoCo alerts at To learn more about Johnson County's Emergency Management efforts, you can visit Thank you very much.

Claire Canaan 16:00  

Thank you.

Kelly Fry 16:00 

Thank you so much.

Announcer 16:01 

You just heard JoCo on the Go. Join us next time for more everything Johnson County. Have a topic you want to discuss? We want to hear from you. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter at jocogov. For more on this podcast, visit Thanks for listening.

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