Preparation is Key to Surviving Violent, Unpredictable Storms
GEMA’s Ready Georgia campaign urges residents to get ready for tornado season beginning March 1
Tornadoes have delivered death and destruction to Georgia and in recent years, numerous tornado records have been broken in our state. For instance, Hurricane Katrina brought 18 tornadoes to Georgia in 2005, the most tornadoes ever reported in a single day in August. In March 2008, the first tornado in Georgia’s history touched down in downtown Atlanta.
Most recently, severe storms struck a Buford community on Nov. 30, 2010, and spawned an EF-2 tornado that packed winds of 130 mph and devastated a neighborhood, resulting in more than $5 million in damages. During the storm, dozens of buildings, trees and power lines were damaged, leaving at least 1,500 without power. Residents were urged to leave their homes for the night for their own safety.
“March 1 marked the beginning of Georgia’s official tornado season, and we want to ensure that all residents are prepared for the violent nature of tornadoes,” said Charley English, Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA)/Homeland Security director. “Tornadoes are a real threat in Georgia, no matter where in the state you live.”
Tornadoes are most destructive when they touch ground, and normally a tornado will stay on the ground for no more than 20 minutes. However, one tornado can touch ground several times in different areas with severe wind speeds uprooting trees and structures and turning harmless objects into deadly missiles, all in a matter of seconds.
One of the best ways to prepare for tornadoes and other emergencies is to visit GEMA’s Ready Georgia campaign website – www.ready.ga.gov – and create an online profile to generate a custom checklist and family communications plan which takes less than an hour. The campaign also offers this information to help residents prepare, plan and stay informed about tornadoes:
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.
When severe weather threatens, the National Weather Service (NWS) uses EMNet, a satellite-based emergency messaging system, to activate the Emergency Alert System (EAS), a national public warning system that requires broadcasters to deliver important information to the public. GEMA broadcasts these feeds to local emergency management agencies, which in turn activate their local warning systems. When developing local emergency plans, each county determines the best alert for residents (sirens, reverse telephone notifications or email alerts). However, no warning method is perfect, so relying on a NOAA Weather radio can be your best defense.
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.
About Ready Georgia
Ready Georgia is a statewide campaign designed to educate and empower Georgians to prepare for and respond to natural disasters, pandemic outbreaks, potential terrorist attacks and other large-scale emergencies. The campaign is a project of the Georgia Emergency Management Agency/Homeland Security and provides a local dimension to Ready America, a broader national campaign. Ready Georgia aims to prepare citizens for maintaining self-sufficiency for at least 72 hours following an emergency, and uses an interactive website, free mobile app, broadcast and print advertising and public awareness media messaging to reach its audiences. Ready Georgia is also on Facebook and YouTube.