Severe Weather Season is Here: Be Prepared

The recent tornado outbreak rocking a string of Midwestern states has served as a painful wake up call to the kind of havoc severe weather can cause. With the season of tornadoes and severe thunderstorms well underway, the City of Arlington’s Office of Emergency Management is reminding residents that the most effective tool to combat severe weather is having a plan.

While a plan encompasses a host of things, like building an emergency supply kit, it begins with heeding all weather watches and warnings seriously and knowing where to go and what to bring should there be a severe event near you.

According to Emergency Management Administrator Irish Hancock, a widely held misconception is that the sound of outdoor warning sirens means a tornado is heading our way.

And while that very well might be the case, Hancock said sirens are an all-hazard notification system that “can involve any significant type of severe weather – large hail, high winds, or a severe storm,” he said.

What’s for certain when the outdoor warning signs are sounded: seek shelter and turn to local media sources to find out exactly what’s coming.

“If it’s a confirmed sighting of a tornado in the area, that’s when you need to make the judgment call to go into a basement or interior room inside your house,” Hancock said.

Two of the important things to have within the plan, said Hancock, are an emergency supply kit and a NOAA Radio, which he “highly” recommends every family possess. The kit would include first aid supplies, flashlights with extra batteries, blankets, water, emergency phone numbers, non-perishable food, extra cash, and necessary medications.

“It’s also important to have a place in mind where family members can meet if something happens to the home,” said Hancock.

A NOAA Weather Radio will have the most recent warnings for what kind of weather is brewing. Hancock recommends every home have one because it can literally be a lifesaver, serving as a kind of in-house warning system since outdoor sirens can be missed if indoors.

Emergency Management Coordinator Kwa heri Harris wants to emphasize that the outdoor warning sirens are tested on the first Wednesday of each month at 1 p.m., which during severe weather season can make people who hear it a bit jittery. She says if you hear the siren don’t call 911, seek shelter and tune into local media for more information.

Another concern: complacency.

“People have a tendency to feel that if severe weather hasn’t happened in a long time that it won’t happen,” Harris said. “As emergency managers we try to take every opportunity to remind people that although it hasn’t happened here lately, that doesn’t mean it won’t and that you shouldn’t be prepared.”

Residents wanting to know more about severe weather preparation can do so at www.knowwhat2do.com, which lists steps you can take when storms are coming and, more importantly, what to do when they hit.