County prepares plans for shelters in case of emergency

Published 3:06 pm Saturday, July 18, 2015

In the aftermath of a natural disaster, having a proper response is critical. If homes or buildings are destroyed or damaged, temporary shelter may be needed.

Freeborn County officials said they are ready for such a situation.

Kurt Freitag

Kurt Freitag

Buildings like churches and schools can be used as shelters after a major storm, if need be.

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“Imagine if we didn’t have shelter and transportation that was pre-arranged,” said Freeborn County Sheriff Kurt Freitag. “A lot of our resources come from our own community. If a catastrophic event took place, we found out people couldn’t go home and we didn’t have a pre-plan, it could cost us time and resources.”

Freitag said if the county didn’t have these plans in place, it would divert time and resources away from other needs.

Proper local response to a disaster is critical for a proper response from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Freitag said.

“We want to take a whole community approach to disasters,” said Freeborn County Emergency Management Director Rich Hall.

Emergencies can include winter storms, power outages, chemical spills, other natural disasters and active shooters, among other situations.

Hall said shelter may be needed for two to three weeks in the aftermath of a disaster, depending on the situation.

“We have to have places for people to sleep and have information of where they are going,” Hall said. “You want to hope for the best, but plan for the worst.”

Hall is looking at the CivicReady program, a warning system people can get on their electronic devices in the event of a tornado warning or other potential situations.

The program will include a system that allows people to go online and see what shelters are open if someone is displaced, Hall said. Hall hopes to have the program in place by the Freeborn County Fair in early August.

“We want to have shelter teams trained in advance so they know what they’re doing. We want to make sure people can put their lives back together,” he said.

Freeborn County Public Health and Emergency Management took part in a program called “Addressing The Needs Of At-Risk Individuals In a Mass Care/Shelter Setting” on June 22.

The exercise was planned to discuss how organizations in Freeborn County will participate in mass care and sheltering and how the access and functional needs of certain shelter participants would be handled.

The exercise was looked at as an opportunity to discuss and present multiple options and possible situations.

Hall said the American Red Cross will soon be in town to conduct training to prepare for a possible emergency.

Hall is looking for community integration in association with disaster preparedness and advises anyone willing to help or who has questions to give him a call at 507-377-5221 or email him at

About Sam Wilmes

Sam Wilmes covers crime, courts and government for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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