Severe Weather Awareness Week starts Feb. 4

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From tornadoes to lightning to floods, Georgia is susceptible to a variety of natural disasters. Severe weather is dangerous and can strike with very little warning, which is why it’s important to get ready in advance.

Severe Weather Awareness Week runs from Feb. 4-8, and it’s a great time to make sure you and your families are prepared.

Today’s weather is putting us on notice that severe weather season has arrived.

Each day in Severe Weather Awareness Week focuses on a different type of threat faced by Georgians. Barrow County Emergency Services and the Jackson County Emergency Management Agency are encouraging all residents to take a few minutes to learn about how to deal with each emergency situation by visiting the Ready Georgia website at www.ready.ga.gov. Barrow Countians can also call Emergency Management Coordinator Penny Clack at 770-307-2987 ext. 1842.

“During severe weather, emergency workers might need at least three days to open roadways and restore utilities,” says Clack. “If you are prepared to survive independently, it not only helps your family, it also frees up our resources to quickly deal with the most urgent threats.”

The week’s activities begin with Family Preparedness Day on Feb. 4, when households are encouraged to program their NOAA Weather Radios and create Ready Profiles. With a Ready Profile, you can create a customized checklist of emergency supplies and a tailored family communications plan.

On Wednesday, when tornado safety is emphasized, a statewide tornado drill will be issued by the National Weather Service. Severe Weather Awareness Week’s specific observations are:

Monday, Feb. 4 – Family Preparedness/NOAA Weather Radio Day

Tuesday, Feb. 5 – Thunderstorm Safety

Wednesday, Feb. 6 – Tornado Safety and Statewide Tornado Drill (issued by NWS). Area schools and other venues, including the Jackson County Senior Center, will participate in the drill.

Thursday, Feb. 7 – Lightning Safety

Friday, Feb. 8 – Flood Safety (alternate tornado drill date)

Monday, Feb. 4 – Family Preparedness/NOAA Weather Radio Day

Tuesday, Feb. 5 – Thunderstorm Safety

Wednesday, Feb. 6 – Tornado Safety and Statewide Tornado Drill (issued by NWS)

Thursday, Feb. 7 – Lightning Safety

Friday, Feb. 8 – Flood Safety (alternate tornado drill date)

Check ClickThePaper.com during the week for posting of themed safety messages.

Another valuable new tool for Georgia residents is the Ready Georgia smartphone app. This free app, available for both iPhone and Android devices, provides mobile access to a variety of emergency preparedness tools.

In addition, Barrow County Emergency Services provides updates on their Facebook and Twitter pages as well as media alerts through local press outlets. We also recommend NOAA Weather Radio as standard operating equipment in every home.

Jackson County provides citizens with an early warning system, JENS, Jackson Emergency Notification System to inform them of hazards in their neighborhoods such as severe weather along with missing person alerts or any other hazardous situation which may occur. Sign up for service to your cell phones on the county web site, www.jacksoncountygov.com

A NOAA Weather Radio is also recommended as standard operating equipment in every home. NOAA Weather Radio is a nationwide network of radio stations dedicated to broadcasting continuous weather information directly from a nearby National Weather Service office. It is the best way to hear watches and warning from the National Weather Service (NWS), even if they are issued in the middle of the night.

During winter storms, floods, tornadoes or hurricanes, it may take emergency workers at least three days to reach certain areas in order to open roadways and restore utilities. The benefit of being self-sufficient for at least three days is that your family can survive circumstances that might otherwise be tragic, if you were not 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,” says Nichols.

“Family Preparedness Day is a time for every family to plan and rehearse what they should do during the first 72 hours of any severe weather-related event or disaster,” says Nichols.

“It’s also important to pay attention to your local forecast and be sure you have a way to receive weather alerts, even if you are asleep. Jackson County provides our citizens with the opportunity to sign up on our Early Warning System, JENS, Jackson Emergency Notification System, at the county web site and follow the link to register,” said Nichols.

Severe weather or a disaster may force an evacuation of your neighborhood or confine you to your home. What will you do if your basic utilities – water, gas, electricity, or telephones — are cut off? These are the types of questions your family disaster plan must address in order to help protect your family.

Follow these basic steps to develop a family disaster plan:

Gather information about hazards

In addition to your local EMA, you may contact the nearest National Weather Service office or Ready Georgia. Find out what type of disasters could occur and how you should respond. Learn the community’s warning signals and evacuation plans.

Meet with your family to create a plan

Discuss the information you have gathered. Pick two places to meet: a spot very near your home for an emergency, such as fire, and a place away from your neighborhood in case you cannot return home. Choose an out-of-state friend as your “family check-in contact” for everyone to call if the family gets separated. Discuss what you would do if advised to evacuate.

Implement your plan

1. Post emergency telephone numbers by phones.

2. Install safety features in your house, such as a NOAA Weather Radio, smoke detectors and fire extinguishers.

3. Inspect your home for potential hazards: such as items that can move, fall, break or catch fire; and, correct them.

4. Have family members learn basic safety measures: such as CPR and first-aid; how to use a fire extinguisher; and, how and when to turn off water, gas and electricity in your home.

5. Teach children how and when to call 9-1-1 or your local Emergency Medical Services number.

6. Keep enough supplies in your home to meet your family’s needs for at least three days.

7. Assemble an emergency preparedness kit with items you may need in case of an evacuation.

Practice and maintain your plan

Ask questions to make sure your family remembers meeting places, phone numbers, and safety rules. Conduct drills. Test your weather radio and smoke detectors monthly and change the batteries at least once a year. Test and recharge your fire extinguishers according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Replace stored water and food every six months.

For more information, contact Jackson County EMA at 706-367-5202 or visit these websites: www.ready.ga.gov, www.srh.noaa.gov/ffc/ or www.gema.ga.gov.