With the tornado season peaking between March and May, the Georgia Emergency Management Agency, as well as local emergency agencies, is encouraging everyone to start preparing now for these potentially disastrous storms.
“Despite damage caused by numerous tornadoes in recent years, research reveals that a majority of Georgians are still not prepared to survive for the recommended 72 hours following a large-scale emergency,” said Kate Grusich of Ready Georgia, a statewide campaign to educate Georgians to respond to natural disasters.
With any type of severe weather event, Carroll County EMA Director Tim Padgett said a good step to preparedness is remaining informed on the weather.
“Every day, watch the weather, see what’s going on and watch what is leading up to the event,” he said. “If you have a week’s worth of rainy weather and then we get storms trailing through this area, then you need to be watching that area.”
A survey conducted by GEMA last year reveals that only 38 percent of Georgians believe they need to be prepared to survive for the recommended 72 hours following a large-scale emergency. In addition, a majority of respondents had not purchased weather radios or created a family reconnection plan.
“You definitely need to have a safe place in your house or in your area to go to,” Padgett said. “A tornado watch is always issued first and then a tornado warning. Something that’s very important that we do though during a tornado watch when a severe thunderstorm warning is issued, we signal our outdoor warning sirens. When you hear these sirens, go inside to see what is going on.”
According to the National Weather Service (NWS), tornadoes are the No. 1 severe weather-related killer in Georgia. They have proven to be some of nature’s most violent storms, appearing with little warning and generating wind speeds that can exceed 250 mph.
“All of Georgia is prone to tornadoes...but most are likely to occur from March to May, with the peak in April,” the agency reported. “If a tornado is imminent and you are in a home or building, move to a pre-designated shelter on the lowest floor, such as a basement, or a small interior room closet, bathroom or hallway and get under a sturdy piece of furniture. Remember to always put as many walls as possible between you and the outside.”
Those who advocate for emergency preparedness report that residents may not prepare for disasters because they are in denial that such a natural disaster will occur in their area.
“Research shows that people might not feel inclined to prepare because they have never been through a disaster or don’t believe it will happen in their community,” said Charlie English, director of GEMA in a release. “But as history has shown, disasters can happen anywhere and at any time.”
To prepare, plan for and stay informed about tornadoes, Ready Georgia shares the following tips:
Prepare for a Tornado
• Familiarize yourself with the terms that are used to identify tornado hazards: a tornado watch means a tornado is possible in your area; a tornado warning means a tornado has been spotted in your area, and you need to take shelter immediately.
• Determine in advance where you will take shelter in case of a tornado warning.
• Prepare a Ready Kit of emergency supplies, including a first aid kit, NOAA Weather Radio and a three-day supply of food and water.
Plan to Take Shelter
• If local authorities issue a tornado warning or if you see a funnel cloud, take shelter immediately.
• Storm cellars or basements provide the best protection.
• If underground shelter is not available, go into an interior room or hallway on the lowest floor possible.
• In a high-rise building, go to a small interior room or hallway on the lowest floor possible.
• Stay away from windows, doors and outside walls. Go to the center of the room. Stay away from corners because they attract debris.
• A vehicle, trailer or mobile home does not provide good protection. Plan to go quickly to a building with a strong foundation, if possible.
• If shelter is not available, lie flat in a ditch or other low-lying area. Do not get under an overpass or bridge. You are safer in a low, flat location.
• Stay in the shelter location until the danger has passed.
Stay Informed about Tornadoes
• Local authorities may not immediately be able to provide information on what is happening and what you should do. However, you should listen to NOAA Weather Radio, watch TV, listen to the radio or check the Internet often for official news and instructions as they become available.
• After a tornado, be sure to remain out of damaged buildings and stay clear of downed power lines.
• Help injured or trapped people. Check on others who may require special assistance, such as the elderly, children and people with disabilities.
For more information on how to prepare for a tornado, visit www.ready.ga.gov or www.gema.ga.gov.