Evanston Public Library, Fire Department host emergency preparedness talk


Jorge Melendez/The Daily Northwestern

Evanston Public Library and the Evanston Fire Department hosted a talk Thursday about emergency preparedness for severe spring weather.

Xuandi Wang, Reporter

Evanston Public Library educated residents about how to prepare for extreme weather events in spring at a public event Thursday night.

About 20 residents gathered at EPL’s main branch to hear from experts about preparing for handling severe spring weather, like floods and tornadoes, and fallout from severe weather, like power outages. EPL partnered with the Evanston Fire Department to update residents on protocol for climate-induced weather crises. 

Evanston is especially vulnerable to increasingly intense storms, drought-like conditions, threats to water quality and warmer temperatures, EFD Division Chief Kimberly Kull said. 

Kull said thunderstorms are more likely to take place in spring. There has been an overall increase in the number of severe thunderstorms in Illinois since 1950, Kull said. 2021 was one of the years hit the hardest by thunderstorms, she said. 

Human-caused climate change events are at the root of severe weather in spring, Kull said. Severe precipitation can lead to flooding or significant storm activity along the lakefront. She said climate experts forecasted extreme precipitation will greatly impact Evanston as early as 2050. 

“There’s a natural climate change, but we can definitely determine that this is not a normal cycle. This is something directly related to our actions,” Kull said. “We do have a responsibility to lessen the demands on fossil fuels and so forth.”

In late 2018, City Council approved the Climate Action and Resilience Plan, which calls for carbon neutrality and zero waste by 2050 and 100% renewable electricity by 2030, among other goals.

Evanston has made remarkable steps in sustainability in recent years, said Cara Pratt, the city’s sustainability and resilience coordinator

Evanston reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by about 30% since 2005, Pratt said. In 2021, municipal operations sourced 100% of its energy through renewable electricity, which she said was achieved by purchasing energy credits from renewable energy projects. 

Other efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions include updating building codes to increase the efficiency of housing operations, supporting local renewable energy projects, promoting electrification of buildings and vehicles, reducing reliance on fossil fuels and promoting bikeability and walkability, Pratt said. 

Kull said one of the first steps in any response to extreme weather is communication. Residents can stay updated by following local news channels, social media and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association Weather Radio, she said. 

In response to thunderstorms, residents should take shelter in a “substantial building” to avoid injury, Kull said. Residents should also avoid going outside before rain starts because lightning can strike even in dry conditions, she said.  

In response to floods, Kull said residents should avoid floodwaters, as there can be contaminants in the water and toxic chemicals from the sewage system. Exposure to these pollutants may lead to health implications, she said.  

Thursday’s event is the first in a series of extreme weather preparedness seminars that will run through the remainder of the year. Seminars on summer, fall and winter hazards, likeextreme temperatures and severe snowstorms, will be held May 12, Aug. 18 and Oct. 13, respectively. 

American Red Cross Duty Officer Brian Nestler said while some Evanston residents might neglect emergency preparedness measures because they think of themselves as financially well-positioned or having a structurally-sound home, they should also be aware of potential risks posed to everyone by extreme weather. 

“Everyone is vulnerable to extreme weather,” Nestler said. “Each family should start emergency preparation based on their family’s particular needs.”

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