Emergency Management

We work before, during and after trouble strikes, to protect the residents of Hennepin County. Some of the dangerous conditions we monitor include dam breakage, extreme heat, fires, flooding, hazardous materials spills, infectious disease outbreaks, thunderstorms, tornadoes and winter storms, acts of terrorism or other man-made disasters.

Emergency Management also coordinates and maintains public and private disaster resources in the county, and works with other emergency officials and volunteers to prepare for and respond to emergencies. The county’s role is a partnership with each city in the county. Every city has an Emergency Operation Plan that meets state and federal requirements. Hennepin County Emergency Management responds to crises when a city emergency manager, mayor or other city official requests county resources. All emergencies happen locally, and the initial response also is handled locally.

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Feature: Winter Safety

In winter, Minnesotans trade tornadoes, lightning and and flooding for frigid conditions and heavy snow. With those conditions come hazards, such as hypothermia, frostbite and heart attack. But with the right mindset and preparation, there's no there's no need to stay indoors during the long Minnesota winter.

Being aware of the day's weather conditions can help you plan your activities for safety, and be prepared for the worst.

Hypothermia

Hypothermia becomes a risk when conditions become cold. Children and the elderly are especially at risk, with prolonged exposure, and at higher temperatures than you might think, depending on their frailty.

You can watch for the following symptoms:

  • The inability to concentrate
  • Poor coordination
  • Slurred speech
  • Drowsiness
  • Exhaustion
  • Uncontrollable shivering followed by a sudden lack of shivering

Call 9-1-1 immediately if you believe someone is suffering from hypothermia. Remove the person's wet clothing, wrap him or her in warm blankets and offer warm, non-alcoholic, non-caffeinated liquids until help arrives.

Frostbite

People working or playing outdoors during the winter can develop frostbite and not know it. At -35 degrees, it only takes 10 minutes for exposed skin to become prone to frostbite. At -50, the time lapse drops to five minutes. In those kinds of conditions, limit time and exposure, by limiting time spent outdoors, and by dressing appropriately.
Watch for danger signs:

  • The skin may feel numb and become flushed, then turns white or grayish-yellow.
  • The skin feels cold to the touch.

If frostbite is suspected, move the victim to a warm area. Cover the affected area with something warm and dry. Never rub it. As soon as possible, get the injured person to a doctor.

Fire and carbon monoxide

Hypothermia and frostbite aren't the only perils in bitterly cold conditions. 

Unsafe use of temporary and space heaters can be extremely dangerous, creating the risk of fire or carbon monoxide poisoning. Here are some tips, from the National Fire Protection Association.

Fire safety

  • Keep a buffer zone around heating equipment, the furnace, fireplace, wood stove or portable space heater. Make sure the fireplace has a sturdy screen to stop sparks from flying into the room.
  • Never use your oven to heat your home.
  • Have a qualified professional install stationary space heating equipment, water heaters or central heating equipment according to the local codes and manufacturer’s instructions, and have heating equipment and chimneys professonally cleaned and inspected every year.
  • Always choose the appropriate fuel for fuel-burning space heaters, and turn off portable heaters off when leaving the room or going to bed.
  • Ashes should be cool before putting them in a metal container. Keep the container a safe distance away from your home.

Carbon monoxide safety

  • A generator should be used in a well-ventilated location, outdoors away from windows, doors and vent openings. Gas or charcoal grills can produce carbon monoxide — do not use them indoors.
  • Make sure vents for the dryer, furnace, stove, and fireplace are clear of snow buildup.
  • Test smoke and carbon monoxide alarms monthly.
  • If you need to warm up a car, remove it from the garage to let it idle. Do not run a car indoors, even if the garage doors are open.

Learn more about staying safe in extreme cold

Physical exertion

Heavy exertion such as shoveling snow, clearing debris or pushing a car increase the risk of a heart attack.

To avoid problems, remember the following tips:

  • Stay warm, dress warmly and slow down when working outdoors.
  • Take frequent rests to avoid overexertion.
  • If you feel chest pain, stop. Seek help immediately.

Snow blower safety

Read your owner's manual and follow these tips:

  • Never leave your snow blower running and unattended.
  • Make sure the discharge chute is not aimed at passing motorists or pedestrians.
  • Never put your hands into the discharge chute or augers to clear stuck snow and ice.
  • Never add fuel when the engine is running and hot.
  • Make sure you know how to turn the machine off quickly.

Be prepared

Make a plan

You and your family can create an emergency plan with very little effort. An emergency plan can be vital, because you may not be together when a disaster strikes. It is important to plan in advance how to get to a safe place, how you will meet up together, and how your family will react based on the situation. Your emergency plan should include strategies to keep yourself and your family connected and informed before, during and after an emergency, as well as arrangements for keeping safe. All members of your household should know what to do in an emergency. See the resource list below for some ideas to get started.

Be weather-aware

It's important to check daily weather forecasts and plan accordingly. Know your location at all times. That means, knowing when you've crossed a city border or a county line, so you'll know when you've moved from one weather warning area to another. Understand weather alerts, and the differences between an advisory (severe weather is possible in a few days), a watch (conditions are right for severe weather) and a warning (take cover now.)

One good tool is a NOAA weather radio. You can buy receivers at many retail outlets, including electronics, department, sporting goods, and boat and marine accessory stores and their catalogs. They can also be purchased via the Internet from online retailers or directly from manufacturers. There are many choices of receivers from a number of manufacturers with prices ranging $20 to $100. The price will depend upon its use, handheld or desktop, and its capabilities allowing residents to pick the receiver they find fit best.

Make a disaster supply kit

This is a collection of basic household items you may need in the event of an emergency. Try to assemble your kit well in advance of an emergency as you may need to evacuate at a moment's notice and take essentials with you. The following is a list of recommended basic supplies for your kit:

  • Water, one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation
  • Food, at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
  • NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert and extra batteries
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • First aid kit
  • Whistle to signal for help
  • Dust mask, to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
  • Can opener for food (if kit contains canned food)
  • Local maps
  • Cell phone with chargers
  • A copy of your family emergency plan
  • Copies of family documents (i.e., birth certificates, passports)

When emergency hits

Turn on your NOAA Weather Radio and/or a television for information. Follow instructions when advised to evacuate or shelter-in-place. If informed to shelter-in-place stay inside and close all windows and doors. Also, activate your personal/family emergency plan and locate your emergency kit.

After the all-clear

What next?

Resources

Industrial accidents

Pipelines

Transmission pipelines carry large volumes of crude oil or petroleum or product at the bulk supply level. Hennepin County has 104 miles of gas transmission pipelines and 31 miles of liquid transmission pipelines. There are also hundreds of miles of gas distribution main lines and service lines that bring gas to homes and businesses. Since 2002, Hennepin County has had eight significant incidents involving pipelines, resulting in four injuries. Hennepin County is at a greater risk for pipeline incidents than the much of the rest of Minnesota, due to its concentration of these lines.

Aviation

Hennepin County is at a higher risk of significant aviation incidents due to both the number of aircraft operations conducted as well as the higher risk flight modes of approach and departure occurring in the vicinity of the three airports.

Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport is the 17th busiest airport in the US with 425,332 takeoffs and landings in 2012.

Flying Cloud (FCM) and Minneapolis Crystal Airport (MIC) are busy general aviation airports also located in Hennepin County.

Energy hazards

Nuclear

The Monticello Nuclear Generating Plant is located 13 miles northwest of Hennepin County borders, and the Prairie Island Nuclear Generating Plant is located 31 miles to the southeast of the county line. Hennepin County is included in the Ingestion Pathway Zone extending 50 miles from both plants.

Hydropower

Hennepin County has three hydropower facilities. A 12-megawatt generator is located at St. Anthony Falls; a 14.4 Megawatt generator is located at Lock and Dam No.1; and a 8.9 Megawatt generator is at the Lower St. Anthony Falls Lock and Dam. Years ago, power was generated at the Coon Rapids Dam at Brooklyn Park, but operations were suspended in 1966 and the dam was donated to the Three Rivers Park District.

Terrorism

Security threats are any incident or action taken by adversarial or criminal elements that threatens public safety and security.

Specific attack methods range from sabotage and cyber attacks, to the use of firearms and explosives, to unconventional attacks using chemical, biological, radiological and even nuclear weapons.

Minnesota and Hennepin County have had past incidents that were tied to both international and domestic terrorism organizations or provided support to the aims of these groups.

The Twin Cities has a similar general risk of security threats or attacks, as does any other major U.S. metropolitan area. Law enforcement and security agencies at all levels are responsible to define, detect and defend against security threats, as led by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Geologic hazards

Earthquake

An earthquake is the sudden release of energy from the Earth’s crust which results in seismic waves that can be destructive. Most earthquakes are associated with particularly active regions of the Earth where huge plates contact each other.

Hennepin County is far from these active regions and is in a relatively stable area of middle North America. However, earthquakes have struck Minnesota and will almost certainly continue to do so in the future. The closest earthquake epicenters to Hennepin County were in Cottage Grove in 1981 (measured 3.6 Richter scale) and in New Prague in 1860 (estimated 4.7 Richter scale). Hennepin County has a much lower risk of earthquakes than most of the rest of the United States.

Landslides

Landslides include any downslope fall or slide of rocks or soils. Changes in local conditions, such as heavy rains or the removal of plant cover can help trigger landslides. Hennepin County is vulnerable to rock falls, along the Mississippi River gorge from Minneapolis south to Fort Snelling. However, light human activity reduces the consequences.

The highest risk of slope failures in Hennepin County is along the steep north valley wall of the Minnesota River Valley in Eden Prairie and Bloomington. Overall, risks of landslides in Hennepin County are low.

Sinkholes

Sinkholes form in land that is underlaid by carbonate rock that is dissolving as ground water moves through it or when acidic water moves downward from the surface. Cavities develop in the rock and expand through this process. When the cavity is located close to the surface, a collapse may occur. Another possible emergency is groundwater contamination from toxic compounds on the surface reaching bedrock through these water routes.

Areas where depth to bedrock is 50 feet or less are at the highest risk. In Hennepin County, sinkhole conditions exist in a band from near Crystal southward to the area of the International Airport. The risk of sinkholes developing in Hennepin County is generally low, compared to the more active sinkhole areas in southeastern Minnesota.

Outdoor warning sirens

The sirens and their associated equipment are purchased and maintained by cities, towns and townships within Hennepin County. They are activated at the county level, with authorization from the National Weather Service.

Sirens are used for severe weather warnings, when the National Weather Service has issued a tornado warning, and/or if there are reports of sustained straight-line winds in excess of 70 mph.

Per Minnesota policy, the sheriff’s communication division tests/activates all sirens in Hennepin County at 1 p.m. on the first Wednesday of each month.

2013 Hennepin County siren zones map (PDF)

Hennepin County siren coverage map (PDF) 

For your safety

  • Outdoor warning sirens are meant to be heard outside. The system is not designed to provide notification inside your home or business. When sirens sound, residents should always seek shelter and tune to local weather information on radio, television, or NOAA Weather Radio for more information.
  • No one in Minnesota issues an “all-clear” tone from the outdoor sirens. Such signal may be confusing to residents in the event of additional warnings.
  • The threat of severe weather does not stop when the sirens stop. Residents should continue to shelter and stay tuned to local weather information on radio, television or NOAA Weather Radios for the duration of the warning period.
  • If the siren sounds while you are in your vehicle, seek shelter immediately. The safest place to be is in a sturdy building, on the lowest level away from windows. If there is not a building nearby, and the tornado is approaching quickly, get as far away from the road and cars as possible and lay in a low area covering your head with your arms. Do not go under an overpass; the bridge could collapse or become a wind tunnel with flying debris.

New siren warning zones

As of 2013, Hennepin County sounds the sirens through a series of 20 zones.

Zone 1 - Minnetrista, Mound and St. Bonifacius

Zone 2 - Independence and Maple Plain

Zone 3 - Deephaven, Excelsior, Long Lake, Minnetonka Beach, Orono, Shorewood, Spring Park and Tonka Bay

Zone 4 - Eden Prairie

Zone 5 - Greenfield

Zone 6 - Loretto and Medina

Zone 7 - Hopkins, Minnetonka, Wayzata and Woodland

Zone 8 - Edina

Zone 9 - Bloomington

Zone 10 - Corcoran

Zone 11 - Medicine Lake and Plymouth

Zone 12 - St. Louis Park

Zone 13 - Minneapolis and St. Anthony

Zone 14 - Ft. Snelling, Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport and Richfield

Zone 15 - Rogers

Zone 16 - Maple Grove and Osseo

Zone 17 - Crystal, Golden Valley, New Hope and Robbinsdale

Zone 18 - Dayton

Zone 19 - Brooklyn Center and Brooklyn Park

Zone 20 - Champlin

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