By Kate Grusich
For Ready Georgia
With the three-year anniversary of one of the most devastating tornado outbreaks in state history, the Georgia Emergency Management Agency’s Ready Georgia campaign is encouraging all residents to start preparing now for potentially catastrophic storms.
On April 27-28, 2011, Georgia was pummeled by 15 tornadoes, causing the death of 15 people and injuring 143 across the state. The most powerful twister to hit Georgia was an EF-4 storm that roared through Catoosa County, killing eight and injuring at least 30. That storm, with winds in excess of 175 mph, was one-third of a mile wide and was on the ground for 13 miles before finally dissipating in Tennessee.
With the peak of tornado season currently under way, there’s no better time to focus on emergency preparedness.
• Compile a Ready kit of emergency supplies - such as water, non-perishable food, flashlight and extra batteries and a first aid kit - in case you lose electricity or have to evacuate. Keep a copy of your insurance information and vital records, such as birth certificates, in the Ready kit. Don’t forget to factor in the unique needs of family members, such as supplies for pets, seniors, children or individuals with disabilities or an access and functional need.
• Determine in advance where you will take shelter in case of a tornado, preferably in a basement or a storm cellar. Keep blankets or a mattress here to protect against falling debris.
• If local authorities issue a tornado warning - or if you see a funnel cloud or tornado - take shelter immediately.
• Storm cellars or basements provide the best protection. If possible, climb under something sturdy, like a heavy table or work bench and cover yourself with blankets or a mattress.
• If underground shelter is not available, go into an interior room or hallway on the lowest floor possible. Crouch as low as possible to the floor, facing down and cover your head with your hands. A bathtub may offer some protection, but cover up with thick padding - like a mattress or blankets - to protect against falling debris, if time allows. A helmet can offer some protection against head injury.
• In a high-rise building, go to a small interior room or hallway on the lowest floor possible. Go to the center of the room and avoid windows, doors and outside walls.
• Interior stairwells are usually good places to take shelter. • Stay off the elevators, as you could be trapped if power is lost.
• A vehicle, trailer or mobile home does not provide good protection. Get out immediately and head for safety, preferably in a basement or sturdy building. If shelter is not available, lie flat in a ditch or other low-lying area and use your arms to protect your head. Do not get under an overpass or bridge -you are safer in a low, flat location.
• Learn your community’s warning system.
• Familiarize yourself with the terms used to identify tornado hazards - a tornado WATCH means a tornado is possible in your area. A tornado WARNING means a tornado has been sighted and may be headed for your area, so you need to find shelter immediately.
• Monitor NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio, television and the Internet to stay informed of severe weather conditions.
• Make sure you have a way to receive alerts if you are at home, at work or on the go. Wireless Emergency Alerts are being sent directly to newer cell phones by authorized government alerting authorities. If you own a smartphone, download a weather service app to receive notifications of storms and hazardous conditions in the area. The Ready Georgia mobile app is free and offers up-to-the-minute, geo-located weather and hazard alerts, as well as customizable emergency preparedness checklists.