MORTON — Former Mayor Ron Rainson left a going-away present for the village before he left office in May.
He put together a laminated card that will help village officials deal with a major disaster.
It took about two years, Rainson said, to gather the information.
Rainson also formed an emergency committee so the village will have a disaster response team in place and he established a www.morton911.org website that has important information.
The former mayor's interest in disaster recovery was sparked when neighboring Washington was devastated by a tornado in November 2013, seven months after Rainson was elected mayor.
"When the tornado hit Washington, I stood in my living room and wondered what I would have done if it happened to Morton," he said. "I didn't want to have a situation where I went to our fire station and got in the way."
Rainson said his previous work experiences didn't prepare him for the kind of problems a tornado can cause.
"I was chairman of the Central Illinois Red Cross a few years ago, but we functioned as kind of a second wave of support — cleanup, food, communications," he said.
"As vice president of operations at Ameren CILCO, I was aware that disasters happen every spring. But this (the tornado) was different. It involved everyone and everything."
Rainson's card lists personal phone numbers for Morton, Tazewell County, and Morton School District and parochial school officials, and contacts from Ameren, Red Cross, Salvation Army, Caterpillar Inc. and village churches.
The emergency committee members' names and phone numbers are listed on the card.
Rainson said he contacted many of Morton's 28 churches during his research. What a few churches are willing to do in case of a disaster is listed on the card.
For example, First Mennonite Church is willing to offer food for village employees pressed into service until an agency can take over that duty, and provide heavy equipment.
Trinity Church can provide grief counseling. Grace Church offered to be a media communications center.
"All the churches said, 'Just call us and we'll be there.' But I needed to know specifically what they could do because we might not have the time nor means to contact them during a disaster," Rainson said.
The Morton police station and fire station are listed on the card as the disaster operations center depending upon the type of disaster.
In several meetings with Tazewell County Emergency Management Agency officials, Rainson said, he learned what to do after specific disasters.
From talking to officials in Joplin, Mo., and seeing their plans and studies that followed a catastrophic 2011 tornado, Rainson said, he realized the importance of getting Morton's businesses back up and running as soon as possible.
"The more I talked with people, the more I learned," Rainson said. "For example, you can open a gym for displaced residents to stay and get some food, but what do you for families who have pets?" he said.
No scenario was too horrific for Rainson to contemplate.
"What if a tornado hit a building and 40 people died?" he said. "I met with our funeral directors to gauge their capacity and later discovered the county coroner had access to refrigeration trucks.
"That was very unsettling, but you have to know what to do in advance."
Rainson said he thinks Morton is ready in case disaster strikes.
"We've even modified our (solid waste removal) contract with Peoria Disposal Company to include debris pickup after a disaster," he said.
Steve Stein can be reached at 686-3114 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @SpartanSteve.