Sunday, February 03, 2008

Severe Weather Awareness Week... Day 1

Even though we are in the midst of winter today marks the start of Severe Weather Awareness week here in Georgia. Our severe weather season is typically from mid-March to Mid-May, but not is the time to prepare!

This week the StormTracker46 Weather team will bring you tips to help keep you safe from nature's fury. The week covers a variety of severe weather topics ranging from today's topic... family preparedness, to tornado drill day (Wednesday), to Flooding (Friday), and Storm Spotters (Saturday).

I would be remiss if I did not thank recent Georgia Tech graduate and meteorologist, Chrissy Warrilow, who has helped us get everything together for Severe Weather Awareness Week.


“Family Preparedness: Know What to Do before Disaster Strikes”
(Information courtesy of the National Weather Service and the American Red Cross)

Despite recent improvements in weather forecasting, severe weather can still strike within a moment’s notice. Because the weather can deteriorate very quickly, it is important to have a family disaster plan developed ahead of time. The National Weather Service suggests implementing the following steps into your family’s disaster plan:

1.) Gather information about hazards. Be aware of the different kinds of severe weather that affects your neighborhood, and during what time of year and day they usually occur. Be sure to know appropriate shelter areas and warning signals for each kind of severe weather. Good sources of information include the National Weather Service, the American Red Cross, and your favorite CBS 46 meteorologist.

2.) Meet with your family to create a plan. Talk about the information you have gathered with your family and decide where everyone will go in case disaster strikes. It’s a good idea to have two meeting places, depending on the type of emergency: 1.) a place outside of the home in case of something within the home (such as a fire), and 2.) a place outside of your neighborhood in case you cannot return to your community for a while. For example, those who evacuated for Hurricane Katrina in 2005 could not return to their communities for weeks, and needed a plan for staying elsewhere during that time. In case the emergency involves evacuating away from your neighborhood, be sure your family has an out-of-state contact person to act as a “check in” for everyone to call in case members of your family get separated. Once your family has created its disaster plan, make sure everyone clearly understands it and knows what to do in each type of emergency.

3.) Put your plan in action. Post your disaster plan in a central location, such as on the refrigerator, and have emergency contact numbers listed near each phone. Learn how to do emergency home procedures, such as turning off power and gas in case of a break. Be sure to teach young children when it is appropriate to call 911 and how to do so (for example, what to say to the operator, knowing the full address to the home, describing the emergency clearly, etc). Also, it is a good idea to assemble a disaster kit which has supplies for at least 3 days, including non-perishable food, bottled water, warm clothing, and medicine, and store copies of important documents sealed in water proof containers within this disaster kit. A very detailed list of items that should be in your family’s disaster kit can be found at the American Red Cross’s website, http://www.redcross.org/services/prepare/0,1082,0_91_,00.html

4.) Practice and maintain your plan. Schools across the country conduct tornado and fire drills, why not your family? Regular practice smooths your disaster plan so that in a real emergency, the evacuation process becomes less chaotic; everyone already knows what to do and will instinctively do it. Regular practice of your family’s disaster plan includes discussing shelter for each hazard and knowing which phone numbers to call in case of injury, family member separation, etc.

The worst thing to ever do for your family is to not have a plan. While it is easy to think “it will never happen to me,” the reality is that at some point in time, everyone will need to be prepared for when disaster strikes. For more information about developing an family disaster plan, check out the National Weather Service’s website and the Red Cross’s Website.

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