By MELINDA WILLIAMS
If anyone knows the dangers of tornadoes it’s the people of Southwest Pulaski and Draper. Time was when this mountainous area didn’t have to worry about tornadoes, but April 2011 proved that’s not the case.
With 10 deaths and more than 100 injuries resulting from 62 tornadoes that struck Virginia over the past two years, Gov. Bob McDonnell proclaimed Tuesday, March 12, as Tornado Preparedness Day in the Commonwealth. To help prepare citizens for dealing with a tornado emergency, a Statewide Tornado Drill will be held at 9:30 a.m. that day.
“Tragically, many Virginia families and communities have been affected by deadly tornadoes in recent years, and recovery continues in many places,” said Michael Cline, state coordinator for the Virginia Department of Emergency Management. “Knowing what to do when a tornado warning is issued can save your life, so we encourage everyone to participate in the upcoming Statewide Tornado Drill.”
Businesses, organizations, schools, colleges, families and individuals are encouraged to take part in the event, which will involve practicing how to take cover during a tornado.
At 9:30 a.m. on the day of the drill, National Weather Service will send a test tornado warning to trigger a tone alert and broadcast message on NOAA Weather Radio. Television and radio broadcasts will pick up the warning, simulating what listeners would hear during an actual tornado warning.
To take part in the drill, participants should move as quickly as possible to a safe area in a sturdy building when they hear the NOAA tornado warning. Safe areas include basements, interior rooms, bathrooms, closets or hallways on the lowest level of a building and away from windows.
The best position to assume upon arriving in the safe area is to crouch down or sit on the floor, facing down, with hands covering your head.
“The best and fastest way for anyone to get a tornado warning is by NOAA Weather Radio,” said Bill Sammler, NWS warning coordination meteorologist. “With a weather radio, you get weather data directly from the nearest National Weather Service office.
“When we issue a tornado warning, the weather radio sounds an alarm or flashes lights and then gives information on where the storm is, which way it’s moving, and telling people in its path to take cover,” Sammler added. “This radio could be a lifesaver.”
NOAA Weather Radios with SAME (Specific Area Message Encoding) alerts are available at electronics and sporting goods stores, discount and department stores, and online. Many also have AM/FM bands.
A special needs NOAA Weather Radio that can warn deaf and hard-of-hearing persons of hazardous conditions also is available.
Registration is not required to participate in the tornado drill, but participants are urged to sign up to show support for the measure. To register or receive additional information on how to conduct a tornado drill, visit www.ReadyVirginia.gov.
The annual drill is a joint effort of Virginia Department of Emergency Management and National Weather Service.