Avera billboards raise awareness, controversy - KSFY News - Sioux Falls, SD News, Weather, Sports

Avera billboards raise awareness for emergencies as well as controversy

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We plan for tornadoes and fires but emergencies like car accidents and heart attacks happen every day and we don't always have a plan in place for those. A conspicuous new billboard campaign raises awareness for that cause.

If you were driving down Minnesota Avenue near 33rd Street, the billboard with a young woman calmly seated in front of an accident scene may have caught your attention. Smoke billowed from the top of the billboard, appearing as though it was coming from the car behind the woman. What should be more attention getting than the spectacle is the story behind it.

Amanda Johnson is the woman in the billboard. She survived a car accident in 2008 that took the life of her friend, Andy Wiersma.

"I want to keep his memory alive because he did a lot for the community and he did a lot for me in my life," says Johnson.

The billboard was a bit of a mystery initially though, starting with some cryptic emails that arrived to media outlet inboxes yesterday with a subject line that simply read: "Have you seen these billboards? Amanda should have died, but she didn't."

Other survivors' billboards are up around the area, and in cities such as Yankton. The survivors' stories can be found on a new Avera website "Why I'm Alive.com" along with information that can help you and your family plan for an emergency.

"If you've already talked to your family about what you would do in an emergency and talked about things like what hospital you would go to and who would get the kids home from school for instance, it makes it easier when faced with split second decisions," suggests Dr. Don Kosiak, Avera McKennan ER Director.

"Have your life in order, don't get stressed about the little things because you never know when it's going to end," says Johnson.

Being a billboard model may make Amanda a little uncomfortable, but telling her story doesn't.

As for the smoke coming from the 33rd and Minnesota Avenue billboard, it was shut down by Sioux Falls Fire Rescue this morning after numerous calls from the public to 9-1-1.

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