With spring weather just around the corner, the possibility of severe weather also is near.
And with Severe Weather Awareness Week being kicked off in Georgia today, officials want residents to get prepared early.
On Wednesday morning, the Georgia Emergency Management Agency and the National Weather Service will conduct a statewide tornado drill. All Columbia County schools will be participating. Pam Tucker, the county's emergency services director, is inviting businesses and residents to participate as well.
"The drill on Feb. 23 will be a wonderful opportunity for people to participate and practice their (emergency) plans," she said. "Go inside your house and find your safe room. Make sure all of your family knows that this is the safest room in the house. That would be the most interior room. The smaller the better, on the lowest floor."
The peak thunderstorm and tornado season in the South lasts from March through May, Tucker said.
"Although they can occur any time of the year, that is predominantly considered severe weather season in our geographic area," she said. "It is just that time of year whenever you have the cool air from the North and the warm air from the North. It is just the right recipe, almost daily, for severe thunderstorms to develop."
Severe Weather Awareness Week will continue through Saturday. The week is designed to educate citizens about safety, preparedness and response for a variety of severe weather events, including winter storms, floods, hurricanes, lightning, thunderstorms, tornadoes, heat waves and droughts.
The week of events begins with Family Protection Day on Monday, when Tucker hopes all citizens will use the day to develop an emergency plan for their homes and businesses.
Concerning the statewide tornado drill Wednesday, Tucker said that in large buildings such as at offices or gymnasiums, people should seek out interior corridors on the bottom floor, which are often the only thing standing after a tornado hits.
People should cover their head and neck.
Tucker said the first step to being protected during severe weather is to know what to do for each possible event. All residents are encouraged to develop a critical emergency plan for their homes. Detailed safety rules for all types of disasters can be found in Are You Ready?, a publication that includes step-by-step guidelines on how to prepare a disaster supply kit, emergency planning for people with disabilities, how to locate and evacuate to a shelter and even a contingency plan for family pets.
"It tells you everything about every kind of disaster not just severe weather," Tucker said. "Every home needs to get a copy of this."
The free publication can be ordered or downloaded by visiting www.fema.gov/areyouready/.
Once you know what to do, Tucker said a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Alert radio also is a vital part of a family disaster kit. It alerts homeowners and business owners to severe weather watches and warnings issued by the National Weather Service. The radios can be purchased from any electronics store for $20 to $80, Tucker said.
"You need something to wake you up and then you hear the basic message, then you can turn on your TV," Tucker said.
For more information about Severe Weather Awareness Week, call Tucker's office at 868-3303.
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