WIU Expert on Tornado Disasters
6:30 pm
Mon November 18, 2013

Working to Improve Emergency Responses

Although November tornadoes are not common in Illinois, Dr. Jack Rozdilsky said no one should be surprised when one happens.

“My first thought as an emergency management person is the question of it’s not if the disaster will happen, but when these disasters may happen,” Rozdilsky said.

Damage from a tornado that struck Gifford in eastern Illinois on 11/17/13
Damage from a tornado that struck Gifford in eastern Illinois on 11/17/13
Credit Sean Powers/Illinois Public Media

Rozdilsky is an assistant professor of health sciences at Western Illinois University and also serves as the emergency management program coordinator at WIU, which is the only school in the state that offers a degree program in Emergency Management.

He has studied disaster management and response. His work includes federally-funded research on the clean-up from the EF-4 tornado that heavily damaged Harrisburg in southern Illinois in February 2012.

Rozdilsky said he found it’s important for counties to support local emergency management efforts year-round. He acknowledged budgets are tight but added the disaster response is much more effective when emergency management offices are adequately staffed and equipped.

He also learned that much of the debris created by tornadoes in urban areas ends up in farm fields.

“An important but overlooked aspect of tornado recovery would be debris removal in farm land because even small pieces of debris that get incorporated into the soil on nearby farms, come planting season this may create a large problem for the farming community,” said Rozdilsky.

Jack Rozdilsky
Jack Rozdilsky
Credit Rich Egger

He said the WIU Emergency Management Student Organization and Emergency Management faculty will meet Thursday, November 21, 5:30 pm in Stipes Hall 107 to talk about offering disaster relief assistance at one of the central Illinois communities damaged by Sunday’s storms.

Rozdilsky said people can protect themselves by making sure they’re warned when a severe storm is approaching.

“We would recommend that all citizens have a NOAA weather radio so they can stay alert and be warned in case we get severe weather,” said Rozdilsky.

“The disaster that we have seen yesterday (November 17) is the type of disaster which can occur locally. So it’s best that we always be prepared for these types of things no matter the season – winter, spring, summer or fall.”

He pointed out the storm system that rumbled through Macomb that morning is the same one that flattened homes in Washington and other central Illinois communities.