Be a force of nature in your hometown
The Kansas City Star
Severe Weather Preparedness Week runs through March 9, and FEMA, NOAA and the state of Kansas want you to take time to prepare for disasters
The past few years have been an important reminder to all of us that severe weather can strike anywhere, anytime. Nearly every region of the country experienced some form of extreme weather, from hurricanes to snowstorms to tornadoes, and even a historic derecho, a rare and violent line of thunderstorms.
Closer to home, in April 2012, significant damage was caused to some homes and 14,000 people in Sedgwick County lost power when tornadoes tracked through Kansas. In February 2012, one tornado touched down in Harveyville, KS injuring a dozen and claiming a life. Before, during and after these tornadoes, thousands of people anxiously monitored the situation and waited to see what nature would blow their way.
Each year, Midwesterners are killed or seriously injured by tornadoes, severe thunderstorms, floods and even wildfires - despite advance warning. In 2012, there were more than 450 weather-related fatalities and nearly 2,600 injuries nationwide. Additionally, tens of thousands of people suffered property damage to their homes and businesses. Severe weather knows no boundaries and affects every individual. It is time for bold preparedness actions.
The state of Kansas, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have joined forces in order to highlight the importance of making severe weather preparedness a nationwide priority.
We all want the peace of mind of knowing our families, friends, homes and businesses are safe and protected from threats of any kind. And while we can’t control where or when the next tornado, flash flood, or other disaster will hit, we can take responsibility for preparing ourselves and loved ones for emergencies.
As we reflect on the damage caused by severe weather in our region during the past several years, we’re calling on you to “Be a Force of Nature.” Knowing your risk, taking action and being an example for others are just a few steps you can take to be better prepared and assist in saving lives.
For example, last April 14th there were dozens of tornadoes reported throughout the state; along with dangerous straight-line winds, driving hail, and some flooding. The residents of the Pine Aire Mobile Home Park in Wichita took pre-storm warnings seriously and sought shelter prior to the severe weather hitting. Their prompt response to the warning likely saved many lives. Mobile homes, even if tied down, offer little protection from tornadoes and should be abandoned in cases of severe weather because they can overturn very easily, even if they have been “secured.” Residents of mobile homes must plan in advance and identify safe shelter options.
Join us in becoming “A Force of Nature,” by Pledging to Prepare and follow these steps before severe weather affects our area:
Know your Risk: The first step to becoming weather-ready is to understand the type of hazardous weather that can affect where we live and work, and how the weather could impact you and your family. Check the weather forecast regularly and visit ready.gov/severe-weather to learn more about how to be better prepared and how you can protect your family during emergencies.
Check the weather forecast regularly, sign up for local alerts from emergency management officials, and check to see if your cell phone is equipped to receive Wireless Emergency Alerts and buy a weather radio. Severe weather comes in many forms and your family’s emergency preparedness and shelter plan should include all types of local hazards. Local emergency management officials can help you determine the specific hazards your family should be prepared to weather.
Pledge and Take Action: Pledge to develop an emergency plan based on your local weather hazards and practice how and where to take shelter before a severe weather event. Post the plan in your home where family members and visitors can see it. Learn how to strengthen your home and business against severe weather. Download FEMA’s mobile app so you can access important safety tips on what to do before and during severe weather. Understand the weather warning system and become a certified storm spotter through the National Weather Service. Stay informed by having multiple sources for weather alerts - NOAA Weather Radio, Weather.gov, and Wireless Emergency Alerts. Subscribe to receive alerts at www.weather.gov/subscribe.
Be an Example: Once you have taken action, tell your family, friends, and co-workers about how they can prepare. Find out how emergency management officials in your area, for your state and even federal agencies are using social media so you can get timely updates and share valuable information with friends and loved ones during emergencies. Studies show that individuals need to receive messages a number of ways before acting – be one of those sources.
Building a Weather-Ready Nation requires the action of each and every one of us. To be a “weather-ready nation” means building community resilience in the face of increasing vulnerability to extreme weather and water events. Pledge to be prepared and learn more at ready.gov/severe-weather and encourage your community to Be a Force of Nature.
Maj. Gen. Lee Tafanelli is the Kansas Division of Emergency Management Director and Beth Freeman is regional administrator of FEMA Region VII.