Tornado season is here, get prepared

By Heather Meade hmeade@civitasmedia.com

April 26, 2014

DARKE COUNTY – Tornadoes can happen any time, but the greatest number typically occur in April, May and June. When a tornado occurs, families will want to be prepared, said Lynne Gump, executive director of the American Red Cross – Darke County Chapter.

“Preparedness starts today,” Gump said. “Teach your family what to do during a tornado, and then practice that with family tornado drills. People don’t typically do tornado drills outside of school or work…The most important thing is to have a plan and practice your plan.”

Mindy Saylor, director of the Darke County Emergency Management Agency, said families should have a safe meeting place picked out, and should always have a back-up plan in case an emergency should occur.

“We encourage everyone to practice their drills,” Saylor stated. “Knowing where your safe place will be prior to an event is vital. Knowing if you do live in a structure that isn’t sound [such as a mobile home], that you need to have a back-up plan – go to a family member’s house, or a public building – whatever the case may be, just have a back-up plan. And talk to your children, make sure they understand, especially children old enough to be home alone.”

Every household should also have multiple methods of receiving warning, Saylor said, including a NOAA Weather Radio, which is less than $40 and programmable to specific counties; a cell phone that receives notifications, such as the apps available from the American Red Cross; television; and radio.

“Studies have found that people need to receive the information three times before they take action,” Saylor said, which is why it’s so important to have multiple methods of receiving notification, she added.

Gump also suggested making preparedness kits, which according to Ready.gov, should include enough food, water and other supplies to last each person three days.

The American Red Cross suggests that during any storm people should be listening to the local news or their NOAA Weather Radio to stay informed; households should also have a safe place to gather during the threat of a tornado.

It’s also important to note the difference between a tornado watch and a tornado warning. A tornado watch is issued when tornadoes are possible “in and near the watch area.” Tornado warnings mean that a tornado has been sighted or weather radar shows signs of a tornado; tornado warnings “indicate imminent danger to life and property.” In case of a tornado warning, area residents should immediately seek shelter in a basement, storm cellar or interior room such as a closet, hallway or bathroom.

Other tips from the American Red Cross include knowing the community’s warning system; preparing for high winds by removing diseased and damaged limbs from trees; move or secure outdoor furniture and other loose items that could be picked up by the wind, becoming a projectile during high-speed winds.

During storms, watch for the signs of a tornado, which according to the American Red Cross include dark, often green-colored clouds (a phenomena caused by hail); wall cloud; cloud of debris; large hail; funnel clouds; and a roaring noise.

Those who are outdoors, or in an non-secure structure, should immediately seek shelter. Those who cannot quickly walk to a shelter should drive, safely and buckled up, to the nearest shelter; if debris begins flying while driving, the driver should pull over and park, but stay in the car with their seat belt on, head down below the windows and cover their heads, or, if the occupants of the car can safely get “noticeably lower” than the level of the roadway in the ditch, they may choose to do that.

To learn more about tornado safety and preparedness, visit www.RedCross.org, or call the American Red Cross – Darke County Chapter, at 937-548-1002.