FEB 28-- This week, Feb. 26 - March 4, has been designated “Severe Weather Awareness Week” in Tennessee, and officials say it’s time to “Get Prepared.”
The Tennessee and Hardin County Emergency Management Agencies, Hardin County Fire Department, and National Weather Service are urging all Tennesseans to review their severe weather plans next week, as advanced planning and increased awareness help citizens survive deadly storms.
“The most important thing is to stay informed and aware,” said Hardin County Fire Chief Melvin Martin. “There’s all kinds of ways to get information–TV, radio, social media– but you still have to take the responsibility to be informed and aware, and then prepare for it.”
During the week, these agencies and more will be focusing each day on a specific type of severe weather or on the warning and drill system. In sharing this information on how different types of severe weather can quickly turn deadly, they hope to inform everyone about what to expect, where to turn for up-to-date conditions, and how to best prepare.
Hardin County emergency officials sent severe weather awareness information to local schools with a different subject for each day of the week, with the subjects listed here so everyone at home can participate as well:
Monday, Feb. 27 begins the week with knowing the difference between a severe weather watch and a severe weather warning.
Simply put, a watch lets you know that weather conditions are favorable for a hazard to occur. It literally means “be on guard!”
During a weather watch, gather awareness of the specific threat and prepare for action – monitor the weather to find out if severe weather conditions have deteriorated and discuss your protective action plans with your family.
A warning requires immediate action. This means a weather hazard is imminent – it is either occurring (a tornado has been spotted, for example), or it is about to occur at any moment.
During a weather warning, it is important to take action: grab the emergency kit you have prepared in advance and head to safety immediately. Both watches and warnings are important, but warnings are more urgent.
Tuesday, Feb. 28 will focus on what to do during a tornado.
First, stay weather-ready: Continue to listen to local news or a NOAA Weather Radio to stay updated about tornado watches and warnings.
At your house: If you are in a tornado warning, go to your basement, safe room, or an interior room away from windows. Don’t forget pets if time allows.
At your workplace or school, follow your tornado drill and proceed to your tornado shelter location quickly and calmly. Stay away from windows and do not go to large open rooms such as cafeterias, gymnasiums, or auditoriums.
If you are outside, seek shelter inside a sturdy building immediately if a tornado is approaching. Sheds and storage facilities are not safe.
Being in a vehicle during a tornado is not safe. The best course of action is to drive to the closest shelter. If you are unable to make it to a safe shelter, either get down in your car and cover your head, or abandon your car and seek shelter in a low lying area such as a ditch or ravine.
Wednesday, March 1 will emphasize flooding, flash-flooding and the “Turn Around Don’t Drown!” campaign. Flooding is the number one weather killer in the United States.
Flash floods are most prevalent in the east half of Tennessee while river flooding is more common in the western sections.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that over half of all flood-related drownings occur when a vehicle is driven into hazardous flood water. The next highest percentage of flood-related deaths is due to walking into or near flood waters.
People underestimate the force and power of water. Many of the deaths occur in automobiles as they are swept downstream. Of these drownings, many are preventable, but too many people continue to drive around the barriers that warn you the road is flooded.
A mere 6 inches of fast-moving flood water can knock over an adult. It takes just 12 inches of rushing water to carry away a small car, while 2 feet of rushing water can carry away most vehicles. It is never safe to drive or walk into flood waters.
On Thursday, March 2, Hardin County students will learn about thunderstorm and lightning safety.
Avoid the lightning threat by having a lightning safety plan. Know where you’ll go for safety and how much time it will take to get there. Make sure your plan allows enough time to reach safety.
Before going outdoors, check the forecast for thunderstorms. Consider postponing activities to avoid being caught in a dangerous situation.
A good rule-of-thumb is, when thunder roars, go indoors. Fully enclosed buildings with wiring and plumbing provide the best protection.
Sheds, picnic shelters, tents or covered porches do not protect you from lightning. If a sturdy building is not nearby, get into a hard-topped metal vehicle and close all the windows.
If you hear thunder, don’t use a corded phone. Cordless phones, cell phones and other wireless handheld devices are safe to use.
Keep away from electrical equipment, wiring and water pipes. Sensitive electronics should be unplugged well in advance of thunderstorms. Don’t take a bath, shower or use other plumbing during a thunderstorm.
Avoid open areas and stay away from isolated tall trees, towers, or utility poles. Do not be the tallest object in the area. Lightning tends to strike the tallest objects in the area.
Stay away from metal conductors such as wires or fences. Metal does not attract lightning, but lightning can travel long distances through it.
Severe Weather Week school lessons will end on Friday, March 3 with an emphasis on being prepared by planning ahead and having an emergency supply kit.
Everyone needs to prepare for the hazards that could affect their area. FEMA, the American Red Cross and the NWS urge every household to develop an emergency plan.
Know where your family and friends are in case disaster strikes, and how you will find each other. Know ahead of time what you will do if basic services such as water, gas, electricity, or telephones were cut off.
Don’t forget to include for the safety and well-being of your pets in the event of severe weather events.
Discuss the information you have gathered and what you need to do to prepare for and respond to different emergencies. Pick two places to meet in case you are separated–a spot outside your home for an emergency, such as fire, and a location away from your neighborhood in case you can’t return home.
Choose an out-of-area emergency contact person as your “family check-in contact” for everyone to call if you get separated. Discuss what you would do if advised to evacuate. FEMA can help create an effective emergency plan at: www.ready.gov/america/makeaplan/index.html
Post emergency telephone numbers by phones and in cell phones. Install safety features in your house, such as smoke alarms and fire extinguishers. Inspect your home for potential hazards (such as items that can move, fall, break, or catch fire) and correct them.
For assistance in creating a severe weather plan or emergency supply kit, you can contact the Hardin County Emergency Management Office at 731-925-6178.
Get prepared - it’s up to you
Each year, many people are killed or seriously injured by tornadoes and severe thunderstorms despite advance warning. Some did not hear the warning; others heard the warning but did not believe it would happen to them.
Before severe weather strikes, develop a plan for you and your family at home, work, school, and when outdoors. The American Red Cross offers tips at: www.redcross.org, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at: www.ready.gov.
Have a Public Alert certified NOAA Weather Radio and battery backup to receive warnings.
NWS watches and warnings are available on the Internet. Select and bookmark your local NWS office from www.weather.gov.
Tornadoes and severe thunderstorms can and do occur at any location, any time of day or night, and any time of year given the right atmospheric conditions.
If severe weather threatens, check on people who are elderly, very young, or physically or mentally disabled.
Having a safe room in your home or small business can help provide “near-absolute protection” for you and your family or your employees from injury or death caused by extreme winds.
Additional information can be obtained by going to www.srh.noaa.gov/meg/ and looking under “Get Prepared.”