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On a balmy March evening in 2008, disaster struck downtown Atlanta. Forecasters thought there was only about a two percent risk of a tornado in the area. But at 9:26pm, a tornado formed in northwest Fulton County. It drifted to the southeast, and by 9:40pm, it was in the downtown area.
The SEC basketball tournament was underway in the Georgia Dome. The Hawks were playing the Clippers in Phillips Arena. The storm caused damage to both buildings, as well as the CNN Center, Westin Peachtree Plaza and other tall buildings. Amazingly, only one person was killed and 27 injured. The next day, the same storm system spawned 44 more tornadoes in Georgia, Alabama and the Carolinas.
Spring storms are an all-too-familiar part of life in the Atlanta metro area. And tornadoes are not the only dangers. Thunderstorms, torrential rains, high winds, flash floods and lightning are regular occurrences. Being aware of the danger is good, but being prepared is even better.
Where is the safest place in your home during a storm? If you’re not sure, take the time now to find out. You want everyone in your family to know the answer before anyone needs it.
The best choice for a safe place is an interior room in your basement, or a room or interior hallway on the first floor. Make sure to avoid windows, the Centers for Disease Control says. In a high-rise building, consider an interior hallway. Mobile home residents need to prepare to use a nearby building, preferably with a basement, or a culvert or ditch. Vehicles are not a safe option, according to the CDC.
If you are concerned that your home doesn’t have a good place to take shelter, you may want to consider adding a purpose-built safe room. The Federal Emergency Management Agency offers several suggestions on how to add a safe room to your house.
You know how it goes: When you need your flashlight, you can’t remember where you last saw it. In an emergency, being able to quickly grab that flashlight can be critical. That’s why you’d be wise to have an emergency kit stocked and set aside in an easy-access location in your house.
What goes into such a kit? Start with a large plastic or metal storage container. Some of the contents you should include are obvious: Flashlights and a first aid kit. FEMA suggests keeping three gallons of water per person, food for three days, a whistle to call for help and dust masks. You can find more details about their suggestions on the Ready.gov website. The Georgia Emergency Management Agency also provides helpful checklists for emergency kits on their site.
Storm Safety Plan
When bad weather threatens, it’s in your best interest for you and your family to have a simple set of clear guidelines for how to protect yourselves.
Now that you’ve designated a safe place and stocked an emergency kit, everyone in the family needs to know where they are. Print out your safety plan and put a copy on your refrigerator. Make sure everyone in the family understands the plan. Because you’ve prepared and your family knows what to do in an emergency, you’ll be able to focus and respond quickly and be better prepared to calmly follow the plan.
Your safety plan also needs to take into account the care of your pets and knowing how to properly shut off your utilities. GEMA offers some great suggestions for preparing for dangerous storms on their website, www.ready.ga.gov. FEMA also provides excellent guidelines and print-outs to help you prepare a specific safety plan for your family.
We can watch and worry when a storm system builds up over Alabama and Mississippi, headed our way. If you follow these steps to establish a safe place, an emergency kit and a safety plan, you can take comfort knowing that your family is prepared.
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