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Jonathan is an emergency management coordinator with a passion for all things weather. He currently lives in south-central Pennsylvania with his wife and son.

Preparedness Is Key to Surviving a Severe Weather Event

Apr 27, 2012

One year ago this week, from April 22nd to 28th, one of the largest tornado outbreaks occurred in the United States, spawning more than 300 twisters and killing hundreds.

Dramatic video of last year's violent tornado which struck the heavily populated area of Tuscaloosa, AL. 

 

This year, to mark the one-year anniversary of that deadly week, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) partnered with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to raise awareness and, hopefully, save lives through the first-ever National Severe Weather Awareness Week.
 
The week-long event focuses on what individuals, families, and businesses can do to prepare themselves for severe weather. According to NOAA and FEMA, preparedness can be accomplished by knowing your risks, having a plan, building a kit and staying informed via NOAA Weather Radio. Being prepared for a severe weather event will help you know what to do before, during and after extreme weather. In addition, in the age or mobile technology and social media, severe weather preparedness also means staying connected with friends, family, and neighbors and encouraging them to active proactively toward severe weather threats.
 
Know Your Risk
 
Extreme weather, from tornadoes to ice storms can impact any part of the population at any time.    The first step to severe weather preparedness is to know your risk for severe weather. Check the weather forecasts regularly and sign up for alerts from your local emergency management officials and media. When considering your shelter options, consider the type of extreme weather which may impact you.
 
Have a plan
 
Municipal governments and businesses such as schools, hospitals, nursing homes, and day cares all are encouraged to have an emergency plan in place, but what about you and your family? Each household should have an emergency plan that identifies potential hazards, including man-made and natural disasters. Once hazards are identified, design your plan around them. Review your plan often and practice it. Think like an emergency or risk manager. How will you, your family, or your business react when a disaster occurs? Will they know what to do at a moment’s notice?
 
Once you’ve responded developed a plan, share it.     Collaborate with your friends and co-workers. Your actions may inspire them or you may be able to exchange information.
 
Build a Kit
 
You’ve developed an emergency action plan, but do you have the supplies on-hand ready to go in an emergency? Many emergency and risk managers recommend you have a kit or go-bag ready to take with you at a moment’s notice. 
 
Assembling a kit is easy. All you need are a collection of basic items your household may need in the event of an emergency. You should plan on having enough food, water, and other essential supplies to last 72 hours in case you cannot be reached immediately.   Also remember that basic utilities such as phone, electricity, gas, water, and sewer may be cut. Your kit should include provisions to deal with a loss of such services. Also, be sure to account for prescription medications, this can be an easily over-looked necessity for many. For additional resources on how to assemble an emergency kit, check out this guide from Ready.gov.
 
Be Informed
 
When threatening weather strikes, you need to be sure you are informed of the latest watches and warnings. The best way to ensure you are receiving the information in a timely manner is to purchase a NOAA weather radio. 
 
Weather radios are relatively inexpensive and some even offer features specifically for those who are hearing impaired. Weather radios with SAME alerting offer the ability to only program alerts for your county or parish. However, I recommend programming neighboring counties in to your weather radio as well. That way you could potentially know what is coming your way.
 
Mobile devices such as smart phones and tablets can also receive emergency alerts. There are a number of vendors who provide this service free of charge. However, keep in mind your ability to receive theses alerts in a timely manner is dependent on your signal strength. In addition, constantly checking your phone for weather updates will drain your battery, which you may need to rely on if there is no power to charge your phone.
 
Be an Example
 
I’ll echo the goals of NOAA and FEMA for this week’s awareness event. After you have taken steps to prepare for adverse and threatening weather, be an example to others. Share your knowledge; challenge your friends and family members to do the same. Check with neighbors, members of your church, or at-risk members of the community, such as the elderly and ask them what they would do in the event of an emergency. You can help them by guiding them through making a plan and a kit or even something as simple as helping program their NOAA weather radio
 
The theme of this year's National Severe Weather Awareness Week challenges everyone to be a Force of Nature by taking proactive preparedness measures and inspiring others to do the same.
 
If you have neighbors in your community who can get to your home quickly and safely before an adverse weather event, offer them a place to shelter with you.
 
According to NOAA and FEMA, research shows people are more likely to take preparedness steps if they observe the preparations taken by others. Social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest are great ways of showing and sharing your preparedness actions with others.
 
Just think, if your preparedness inspires three people to do the same, and those three people each inspire three more people and so on, we could be a Weather Ready Nation in no time!
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