New year good time to review plans for tornado safety
by Elsie Hodnett
PELL CITY — The start of a new year is a good time to make sure you are prepared for a possible tornado or other weather event.

“EF-1 and EF-2 tornadoes across south Alabama on what is usually a peaceful Christmas day are a reminder to us that we are in the secondary tornado season for Alabama,” said Ellen Tanner, director of the St. Clair County Emergency Management Agency.

Tanner said the secondary tornado season is November, December and January. The primary tornado season is in the spring — March, April and May.

“As we put away our Christmas decorations and begin our new year, let’s pay attention to safety measures to protect our family and home,” she said. “Please make sure you are prepared for a possible tornado or winter weather event by having an emergency alert radio with good batteries in it and a disaster supply kit.”

Prepare an emergency supply kit. Make household members aware of where supplies are stored. Use an easy-to-carry container such as a backpack, duffel bag or covered trash container.

In the emergency supply kit, consider including items such as:

• A three-day supply of water, including a gallon of water per person per day.

• Non-perishable food and a manual can opener.

• A change of clothing, rain gear and sturdy shoes for each family member.

• Blankets or sleeping bags and a first-aid kit with essential prescription medications.

• Battery-powered radio, flashlight and extra batteries.

• Credit cards and cash or travelers checks.

• Place important paperwork in waterproof containers. Include financial information, important phone numbers, wills, insurance policies, immunization records and passports.

• Baby items, extra glasses, contact lenses, extra set of car keys, etc.

“Please take a moment to look at the list and gather up these supplies now, during the beginning of January,” Tanner said. “Please prepare for outages due to storms — whether they are tornadoes or winter storms. Purchase an inexpensive am/fm radio and have extra batteries for it. This radio could become your only source of information in a local, regional or national emergency. And a good first-aid kit is a must.”

Tanner said “72 and You” is the St. Clair County EMA motto.

“We encourage everyone to become prepared enough to sustain themselves for 72 hours, which is a possibility if a severe disaster hits your community whereby it could take hours for help to arrive, and even possibly days for power to be restored.”

Tanner said St. Clair County residents can follow the St. Clair County EMA on Facebook and Twitter for weather information.

Beverly Reynolds, Talladega County Emergency Management Agency Specialist II, said Talladega County residents can follow weather updates on Facebook and Twitter, as well as Nixle.

“You can text the Talladega zip code, 35160, to 888777 and sign up for Nixle alerts, which come via text or email,” she said. “The 35160 area code is the only one it will take for Talladega County.”

The St. Clair County EMA offers some tornado information and precautions.

Tornadoes are violently rotating columns of air that descend from thunderstorm clouds to come in contact with the ground. Tornadoes have occurred in every month and during every hour of the day and night. They form quickly and you may have only a few seconds to react and find shelter.

A Tornado Watch means conditions are favorable for the development of tornadoes or severe thunderstorms. Keep up to date with the latest weather information by listening to or watching local Emergency Alert System stations or monitoring your Emergency Alert Radio.

A Tornado Warning means a tornado has been spotted or indicated by radar nearby and you should seek shelter immediately.

Tornadoes can occur without warning.

• If you are at home, go to your shelter room on the lowest floor in the center of the house. Basements and small interior rooms, such as closets or bathrooms, offer the most protection. Take your Disaster Supply Kit with you if it is not already in your shelter room. Avoid windows, doors, outside walls and large rooms such as the living room. Protect yourself from flying debris with pillows, blankets, quilts or coats. Hold a thick pillow over your head.

• If you are at work or school, designated shelters are best. Avoid windows and large open rooms such as auditoriums, lunchrooms and gymnasiums.

• If you are in a shopping center or mall, a designated shelter or the center of the building on the lowest level is best. Do not go to your car.

• If you are in a car or mobile home, leave immediately and go to a more substantial structure. If no shelter is available, lie on your stomach in a ditch and cover your head with your hands or a blanket or coat. Be alert for possible flooding of the area.

• After the tornado has passed, check for injuries. Don’t attempt to move seriously injured persons unless they are in danger.

• Watch for broken glass and downed power lines. Use caution in and around damaged buildings in case they are no longer structurally sound.

Allstate also offers some tips to include when creating an emergency plan to help consumers protect themselves, their homes and their businesses from damage.

• Draw a floor plan and mark two safe rooms or areas that family members can go during a tornado, such as a room with no windows or a basement. Rehearse your emergency plan twice a year.

• Remember to have only appropriately-aged family members safely shut off water, gas and electricity at the main switches.

• Post emergency telephone numbers near each phone and teach children to use them.

• Tell family members how to use the radio to listen for emergency information.

• Consider purchasing and using a NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) Weather Radio in your home during the storm seasons to receive important weather warnings.

• Designate a local and out-of-town contact for your family members to call in case you’re separated. Long-distance calls are sometimes easier to make during a local emergency.

• Collect all important papers and documents. This includes banking, insurance and financial information, as well as bills and checkbook.

• If you don’t have an up-to-date home inventory, walk through your home with a video or still camera. An inventory can help facilitate the claim process.

The St. Clair County EMA can be reached at 205-884-6800. The Talladega County EMA can be reached at 256-761-2125.

© 2013