By Mario Sumter, Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security, Fort Belvoir, Va.July 22, 2013
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (July 22, 2013) - Emergency management is one of the most challenging tasks for individuals and organizations and cannot be overlooked. Thinking ahead could mean the difference between life and death. Your safety, as well as that of your family members, co-workers and Soldiers, depends on weather preparedness.
Summer is here, and along with it comes another push by emergency management professionals to prepare for hazards associated with warm weather. Hazards vary throughout the country, but there's one that can happen anywhere at any time - a tornado.
Tornadoes are nature's most violent and deadly storms. With wind speeds up to 300 mph and paths of destruction stretching as much as mile wide and 50 miles long, tornadoes can cause fatalities and demolish neighborhoods. While some of these storms are clearly visible, rain or low-hanging clouds
can mask others.
I'd like stress the importance of preparedness, which can be tricky because of the suddenness and inability to predict exactly where a tornado will strike. Although they don't have a particular season, they do have periods where occurrences peak. It largely depends on the part of the country - almost by state - when they have the best chance to develop and strike. Advanced notice for tornadoes has improved, but the National Weather Service can only predict where one may strike within a 15-minute window. Therefore, it's important everyone is prepared.
Before a Tornado
• Identify a place in your home (a safe room) to take shelter in case of a tornado. The time to identify this location is now. Have frequent tornado drills to practice going to the safe room. A storm shelter or basement provides the best protection. Otherwise, choose an interior room or hallway on the lowest floor possible.
• Get a weather radio. Make sure it can store a charge or can be hand-cranked.
• Watch for the following danger signs in an approaching storm and be prepared to take shelter immediately:
~ Dark, often greenish sky
~ Large hail
~ A large, dark, low-lying cloud (particularly if rotating)
~ Loud roar, similar to a freight train
• Know the terms and verbiage associated with any weather event. Familiarize yourself with these terms to help identify a tornado hazard.
• Remain alert for approaching storms. Listen to NOAA Weather Radio or commercial radio or television newscasts for the latest information. In any emergency, always listen to the instructions given by local emergency management officials.
During a Tornado
• If a tornado has been spotted or indicated by weather radar, take shelter immediately in the designated safe room. If you are outside, find shelter immediately. If shelter is unavailable, lie flat in a ditch or low-lying area. If in a vehicle, stop immediately and find shelter. Do not try to outrun or drive through a tornado.
• Stay tuned to radio or TV for information and instructions as they become available and stay in the shelter until the tornado has passed.
After a Tornado
• Injury may result from the direct impact of a tornado or may occur afterward when people walk among debris and enter damaged buildings. Check for injuries. Do not attempt to move seriously injured people unless they are in immediate danger of further harm. Stay clear of downed power lines and out of damaged areas. Inspect your home for damage, but be careful of unseen hazards.
• Stay tuned to the radio or TV for further information or instructions.
Prepare now for a tornado. It may never happen in your area, but if it does, you will be ready if you follow the basic guidelines above. Know the terms for watches and warnings (see info box below) and what to do to protect your family. Remember, prepare, practice and be ready now.
FYI (from the National Weather Service)
• Tornado Watch - Atmospheric conditions are favorable for the development of severe thunderstorms capable of producing tornadoes
• Tornado Warning - A severe thunderstorm has developed and has either produced a tornado or radar has indicated intense low-level rotation in the presence of atmospheric conditions conducive to tornado development