By George Wyatt
Special to GUIDON
Adverse weather occurs nationwide, so what can we do to protect ourselves?
The answer is be prepared for variable weather emergency scenarios, have an emergency action plan, stay aware of the situation and conditions as they change around you and react as necessary.
A number of federal, state and local agencies work to monitor meteorological activity and alert you when hazardous weather is on its way.
When receiving alerts, it’s important to know the difference between a watch and warning.
When a watch, such as a severe thunderstorm, is issued, it means people in the alert area should be on heightened readiness in the event a warning follows. A severe thunderstorm warning indicates severe thunderstorm activity is already occurring in the area.
When weather observers determine an area is subject to potential tornado development, they issue a tornado watch. A tornado warning means tornado activity has been sighted in the area.
A flood or flash flood watch issued for a particular area indicates the conditions are favorable for flooding. A flood warning indicates flooding is occurring in the area or will occur soon. In a flood situation, a warning may be accompanied by an order to evacuate.
Here are some tips to help keep you and your loved ones safe during adverse weather:
When a severe thunderstorm watch is issued, begin monitoring the situation via whatever media is available. Keep in mind that if you are monitoring television provided by satellite, your service may be interrupted when heavy clouds and rain arrive.
A battery-powered radio is preferred because it will continue to broadcast updates even if electricity fails. If traveling by vehicle, consider stopping at a rest stop or town that has public facilities for shelter and wait until the storm has passed. Remember that stopping under an overpass isn’t the safest option.
A safe place is an interior room, closet or bathroom with no windows. If a severe thunderstorm warning is issued, move to your safe place and wait there until the warning has expired.
Responding to a tornado watch or warning is similar to that of a severe thunderstorm. After all, it’s an unusually giant, rotating thunderstorm that ushers in tornadic activity.
For protection against tornadoes, your safe place should be on the lowest level of whatever type of dwelling you are located in at the time.
If you have bicycle or motorcycle helmets, take these items to your safe place. If a tornado warning is issued, go to your safe place and protect your head with a helmet or pillow. Roll up in blankets or quilts to protect your vital organs.
You will know if a tornado is upon you by an unmistakable sound and vibration like that of a freight train. Stay in your safe place until the warning has expired.
Flooding may be a problem during and after the storm event, as water continues to drain into streams even after the rain has stopped. If you do find yourself trapped, immediately call for assistance.
Soon after water rises above the first-level baseboards of a home or building, the electricity will go off. If flooding is imminent, make the decision to evacuate instead of waiting it out in a flooded building or home.
When driving in a flood area, never drive through flowing water that has risen above the road surface. Turn around and take a different route. It only takes 18 to 24 inches of flowing water to sweep an average-size car off the road and into the stream.
It only takes about six inches of flowing water to sweep a person off their feet, and a lot less for someone to drown. In addition, remember water is an excellent electrical conductor, so lightning and downed power lines are especially dangerous if you attempt to share the same water.
Don’t wait until adverse weather strikes. Recognizing impending hazards and knowing what to do to protect your family will help you take effective steps to prepare beforehand.
(Editor’s note: Wyatt is with the Installation Safety Office at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.)