Because Georgia is vulnerable to a range of natural disasters, severe weather preparation and education are vital to keeping residents safe.
Gov. Sonny Perdue, the Georgia Emergency Management Agency, and local emergency agencies are all naming the week of Feb. 1-7 as Severe Weather Awareness Week 2009 in recognition of the importance of being prepared.
“With a little time and effort, families can prepare for severe weather hazards affecting our area. Developing a family disaster plan is the first step,” Mike Hodges, director of Liberty County Emergency Management, said.
Emergency agencies across the state have put together a schedule of events and suggestions that coincide with the state’s biggest weather threats.
“The benefit of being self-sufficient for 72-hours, or longer, is that your family can survive circumstances that might otherwise be tragic if you were not prepared,” Hodges said.
Sunday: Family preparedness day
“Family preparedness is the focus on Sunday,” said Hodges. “Family Preparedness Day is the perfect time for every family in Liberty County to plan and rehearse what they should do during the first 72 hours of any severe weather-related event or disaster.”
Hodges said families should use this day to sit down and talk about plans. For a severe weather checklist and outline of a plan contact the EMA at 368-2201 or visit www.libertycountyga.com,www.gema.ga.gov, www.ready.ga.gov.
Monday: NOAA weather radio
This day is dedicated to making sure families check, buy or install NOAA radios, which Hodges said are vital to getting severe weather information. Families and business owners should make sure radios are functioning, have fresh batteries, and make sure they are tuned into the correct frequency (a list is provided on all EMA Web sites).
“Every building needs an NOAA weather radio, so the people inside can receive immediate severe weather or emergency information, when minutes or even seconds count, day or night. This early warning can be the difference between life and death.”
Tuesday: Thunderstorm safety
Thunderstorms are a major threat to many communities in the state.
“Last year, at least 655 thunderstorms occurred in Georgia on about 70 separate days, killing one person and injuring nine others. The biggest threat in Georgia from severe thunderstorms is damaging straight line winds and large hail," Hodges said.
One method of damage prevention is to spend time in the yard removing dead or rotting trees and securing other outdoor objects that could be carried away by the wind or cause damage to structures.
Wednesday: Tornado safety
“The main event of the annual week-long campaign is the statewide tornado drill, scheduled for the morning of Wednesday, Feb.4,” Hodges said. “The National Weather Service will issue a test weather warning message initiating the drill. Local warning systems, NOAA all-hazard weather radios, and the Emergency Alert System will be activated upon receipt of this warning message, to signal the start of the drill.”
Hodges urges everyone to participate in the drill. He said the purpose is to test citizens’ readiness.
Thursday: Lightning safety
While no one in Georgia was killed by lightning last year, 16 people were injured according to Hodges. He encourages people on this day to familiarize themselves with ways to avoid injury as well as what to do if you or someone you know gets struck.
“Lightning is nature’s warning signal that a thunderstorm is in its most violent state and that you should take shelter immediately,” he said.
For more information about lightning, contact the EMA.
Friday: Flooding safety
Because flooding is the most common natural disaster besides fire, it’s important to have a plan just in case an evacuation in necessary or if flood waters enter your house. Another thing EMA officials are suggesting to think about on this day is flood insurance.
This day is dedicated to helping citizens better prepare themselves with a day full of hands-on training. SKYWARN is a program that trains residents to be extra eyes and ears to scout for severe weather.
“We’ll train individuals on weather issues and weather patterns,” Hodges said.
For more information on participating, call the EMA at 368-2201.