Columbia County residents learned to be a little safer last week.
During Severe Weather Awareness Week, they practiced severe weather drills, developed and tested family safety plans and got a peek inside the Georgia Emergency Management Agency's Mobile Command Vehicle.
"Columbia County has taken a very pro-active approach to making the county ready for severe weather," said State Hurricane Coordinator Greg A. Padgett. "That's what we're wanting to do for the rest of the state with Severe Weather Awareness Week and going on a tour with our Mobile Command Vehicle to promote awareness."
The week began Monday with Family Preparedness Day to encourage local families to test their safety plans in case of severe weather.
The Georgia Emergency Management Agency gave public tours of its command vehicle Tuesday at the Columbia County Government Complex in Evans to help promote emergency awareness.
In addition to Evans, the MCV traveled to seven other Georgia cities including Marietta, Columbus and Savannah.
A statewide severe weather drill was conducted Wednesday at schools, government agencies, participating businesses and several others.
The safety exercise varied little from the standard tornado drill in the past, but Padgett said it was important for the public to know that these drills apply for other severe weather events.
"There are more people killed in severe thunderstorms in Georgia each year than from tornadoes," he said. "Tornadoes get all the publicity because of all the damage they can cause, but thunderstorms occur with much more frequency. More people die each year of lightning strikes than they do from tornadoes."
Armed with those statistics, state emergency officials convinced the governor's office to forego the routine tornado drill in favor of severe weather drills held each February and March.
"Wind from a severe thunderstorm can gust up to 70 or 80 mph," said Padgett. "That could do a lot of damage to one of the portable classrooms outside a school.
"With a drill for severe weather, not just tornadoes, we can show schools, and everyone else, what to do in those situations and keep safe."
Other events included tours of the Columbia County Emergency Services model tornado safe room. The room is available for viewing by appointment by calling EMA 868-3303.
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