Coweta County Commission
Storm sirens coming soon
by SARAH FAY CAMPBELL
The destructive tornados in Oklahoma are a reminder that “something can happen at any moment in time, anywhere.”
Tony Sinclair of Coweta-Fayette EMC spoke about the recent tornados as he was being recognized by the Coweta County Commissioners for Coweta-Fayette’s donation for a new early warning storm siren system. “What you are doing here is a great, great thing,” Sinclair said of the storm siren system.
The commissioners approved the bids for the new siren system earlier this month. There will be 13 sirens, which will be located at parks and recreation areas and other gathering places.
The system will be designed so that only those sirens in the vicinity of a tornado or other event will be activated.
Jay Jones, Coweta’s emergency management director, said the county is in the process of finalizing the contract. Work will begin in June. Jones expects to have the entire system ready and working by the end of August.
When a siren is activated, there will also be the capability to email, text or call certain crucial facilities in the area, such as day-care centers, nursing homes, hospitals and government facilities, Jones said.
The sirens are intended to provide an early warning to people who are outdoors — they’re not meant to be heard in homes.
For that, it’s best to have a weather radio. There has been a dramatic increase in destructive weather events in the past few years, and Jones encourages everybody to have a weather radio.
Jones spent years in the fire service, and “I know how important a smoke detector is. I feel that a weather radio is just as important,” he said.
Weather radios broadcast weather bulletins and can be set to come on only when severe weather is in the area.
Weather radios can be bought at many stores, and usually cost about $30, Jones said.
“It’s very cheap for the safety it can provide you,” Jones said.
Those with smart phones can also purchase apps that allow their phones to function much like a weather radio. Jones uses iMap, which works with the GPS on his phone. Because it works off the GPS, it provides weather information for wherever you are located.
In addition to being informed, Jones urges Cowetans to be prepared for emergencies and disasters.
“Prepare ahead of time,” he said. Figure out where you would go and what you would do if a tornado is coming. And when you are out and about, think now about how you would react.
“The main thing is for people to try to use common sense, and to be in tune with what is going on around you,” he said.
In a home or building, go in the basement or a small interior room without windows or under a stairway. If you have a heavy piece of furniture, such as a desk, in that room, get under it. If you have a helmet of any kind — bike helmet, motorcycle helmet, football helmet — put it on. If you have any type of cushion or padding that can protect you against falling debris, use it. And it’s always a good idea to wear shoes. If your home is damaged, you don’t want to be barefoot.
If you are in a vehicle and a tornado threatens, don’t take shelter under a bridge. “That just creates a vacuum. It will suck you out,” Jones said.
There are different opinions on the best way to shelter from a tornado when you are on the road, unable to take refuge in a sturdy building or drive away from the tornado (try to drive at right angles, if you can see the tornado).
If you can’t escape it, park the car. One school of thought is to stay in the car, with your seat belt on, and try to protect your head, bending down below windshield and window level. The more traditional precaution is to take refuge in a ditch, but recent research has raised questions about that advice.
The majority of deaths and injuries from tornados are caused by debris.
There is plenty of information on how to prepare for just about every conceivable disaster at www.ready.georgia.gov and ready.gov.
It’s also a good idea to have a disaster kit handy, with a few days of food and water for the family.