Special to the Journal
When a series of tornadoes raked across Georgia in April 2011, Nanette Chastine found out quickly how crucial emergency preparedness can be. On the night of April 27, severe weather sent the Griffin resident scrambling into the spare bathroom with her daughter, kitten and dog – armed with blankets and a flashlight.
“As we entered the bathroom, the power went out,” said Chastine. “The whole house began to shake, the walls vibrated and the pull from the wind made it seem like the house would be suctioned off the ground. It felt like hours, but was actually only minutes.”
In the end, Chastine was one of the lucky ones: despite some property damage and a week without electricity, her home was still standing.
“Although we had already packed a first aid kit, flashlight with batteries, some camping gear and stored water, I realized we were not even close to being ready for the catastrophe,” said Chastine.” We were extremely lucky the night the tornado hit. However, luck isn’t always on your side, so having a NOAA weather radio and a family communications plan are crucial, especially if time is tight. You never know if you have five days, five hours or only five minutes of warning before an impending disaster, so being prepared could save your life.”
Georgia was pummeled by 15 tornadoes on April 27-28, 2011, causing the death of 15 people and injuring 143 across the state. The most powerful twister to hit was an EF-4 storm that roared through Catoosa County, killing eight and injuring at least 30. That storm, with winds in excess of 175 mph, was one-third of a mile wide and was on the ground for 13 miles before finally dissipating in Tennessee.
As the two-year anniversary of the devastating tornado outbreak approaches, the Georgia Emergency Management Agency/Homeland Security’s Ready Georgia campaign is encouraging people to get ready now, rather than waiting for the next potentially catastrophic storm to hit. Here are some tips to help residents prepare, plan and stay informed about tornadoes:
- Make a Ready kit of emergency supplies – such as water, non-perishable food, flashlight and extra batteries and first aid kit – in case you lose electricity or have to evacuate. Most of the items are inexpensive and easy to find, and any one of them could save your life. If you are disabled, be sure to include the items that will help you stay healthy and independent. If you have pets, be sure to pack a pet Ready kit with food, water and veterinary records.
- Trim away dead or weak tree branches from around your home.
- Be weather-aware; be alert to changing conditions so you can take proper action.
- Know where you will take cover in an emergency. A basement provides the best protection, but if you don’t have one, shelter in an interior room or hallway.
- Be sure every family member knows important phone numbers for schools, offices, home and emergency services.
- Identify an out-of-town contact you can call if your family is separated and determine a neighborhood meeting place.
- Keep a copy of your insurance information and vital records, such as birth certificates, in your Ready kit.
- Learn your community’s warning system.
- Know the difference between a watch and a warning. A tornado watch means a tornado is possible in your area; a tornado warning means a tornado has been spotted in your area, and you need to take shelter immediately.
- Monitor NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio, television and the Internet to stay informed of severe weather conditions. Make sure you have a way to receive alerts if you are at home, at work or on the go. Find out if your cell phone can receive Wireless Emergency Alerts.