Severe Weather Awareness Week
Preparedness campagin comes on heels of snowstorm
by Wes Mayer
Although “perfect timing” may not be the best phrase following the debilitating snow and ice, the upcoming Severe Weather Awareness Week Feb. 3-7 is coincidental and much needed, however late.
Throughout the week, in support of the Georgia Emergency Management Agency and the National Weather Service, the Coweta County Emergency Management Agency is highlighting five different topics to provide information on how families can prepare for multiple emergency situations.
“We want to encourage everyone to have a kit, have a plan and be ready,” said Jay Jones, director of Coweta County Emergency Management.
For the week, the emergency agencies are urging everyone to check out www.ready.ga.gov or the Ready Georgia smartphone app. Ready Georgia covers how families should put together an emergency kit — with supplies such as food, water, warm clothing, flashlights, medicine, etc. — and create a plan with their family — where to meet and what to do in certain situations. Most importantly, the website teaches families how to care for themselves for three days, Jones said.
“During severe weather, emergency workers might need at least three days to open roadways and restore utilities,” Jones said. “If you are prepared to survive independently, it not only helps your family, it also frees up our resources to quickly deal with the most urgent threats.”
For Severe Weather Awareness Week, the emergency agencies will be providing information on their websites on different topics for each day of the week. Monday has been declared Family Preparedness/NOAA — National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration — Weather Radio Day; Tuesday will cover thunderstorm safety; Wednesday will cover tornado safety; Thursday — lightning safety; and Friday — flood safety. A statewide tornado drill will also occur on Wednesday and an alternate drill day is on Friday.
For National Preparedness/NOAA Weather Radio Day, the agencies are emphasizing families creating kits to plan for the first 72 hours after a disaster strikes. Part of this is paying special attention to the weather forecasts and investing in an NOAA weather radio to receive the more important updates, like watches and warnings, even if they occur during the middle of the night.
Ready Georgia lists numerous tips on how to avoid hazards in the home, maintain supplies and knowing who to contact in the case of an emergency. One of the tips is making sure a family member knows basic safety measures, like CPR and first-aid. Ready Georgia also has information to help businesses and kids be ready when a disaster strikes.
Ready kits are not only important in the home, though, Jones said — families should keep kits, including items like water, blankets, flashlights, medicine, etc., in their vehicles as well.
In time for the expected thunderstorms predicted by the National Weather Service for the Coweta area Tuesday, the emergency agencies will focus that day on thunderstorm safety. According to the National Weather Service, Georgia experiences thunderstorms anywhere from 45 to 55 days each year, and 10 percent of these are classified as severe. Severe thunderstorms often bring damaging straight-line winds and hail, and are common during spring and summer.
When a thunderstorm is close by, people should follow the 30/30 rule — if they cannot count to 30 each time after seeing lightning, go inside and remain indoors for 30 minutes. In the case of a thunderstorm, the emergency agencies urge everyone to stay indoors or inside vehicles, secure outdoor objects that could blow away or cause damage, secure windows and doors, unplug appliances, avoid showering or bathing, avoid hills, open areas and anything metal and avoid tall or isolated objects that may attract lightning like trees and small single buildings
Wednesday’s topic is tornado safety. According to the National Weather Service, tornadoes are the number one severe weather-related killer in Georgia. Last January, a tornado struck Bartow, Fannin, Gilmer and Gordon counties and one man was killed. Last March, two tornadoes struck Burke, Meriwether and Pike counties, killing another man.
“The best thing to do to protect yourself and your family is to have a plan of action before a threatening tornado develops,” Jones said.
When a tornado watch is issued, the emergency agencies urge people to tune in to their NOAA weather radios or other local radio and television stations, and stay alert for the sound of an approaching tornado — the sound commonly compared to a freight train. If a warning is issued, people should move to a safe place away from glass and flying objects, hurry to a basement or sturdy building, and immediately exit a vehicle or mobile home. As a last resort, lie down in a ditch or low-lying area.
Even after a tornado passes, the area may not be safe. People should still watch out for power lines and damaged areas, and should inspect their home for damage — with a flashlight, not a candle. People should continue to listen to the radio for instructions as well.
“We just want to remind people to be prepared for different types of weather in Georgia,” Jones said. “Only in Georgia can we have 14-degree temperatures in the morning and then 65 degrees during the day. One week we’re dealing with a snowstorm, and we are predicting next week we’ll be dealing with [the possibility of] tornadoes.”
According to the National Weather Service, Coweta County is expected to receive showers during the next two days that may turn into thunderstorms by late Tuesday. Jones said the early forecast showed a possibility of tornadoes late Tuesday and into Wednesday, but the forecast could change.
There are 16 weather sirens now set up throughout the county that will warn Cowetans if severe weather is heading their way. In the case of a tornado warning, Jones said, only the sirens in the affected areas will sound, and a voice-over will play, saying, “Attention, attention — there is a tornado warning for this area, seek shelter immediately.” The sirens will sound twice.
For the tornado drill set up for Wednesday, all 16 sirens will sound at once and the voice-over will be clear it is only a drill.
Jay Jones issues regular weather and safety updates, and he can be followed on Twitter @cowetaema.
Jones also sends out emails to businesses and schools in his distribution list. If any business owner is interested in being added to the list, they may contact Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org. Anyone with questions may call the Coweta County Emergency Management Agency at 770-254-2650.