National Severe Weather Preparedness

National Severe Weather PreparednessSevere weather could happen anytime

In 2013, there were seven weather and climate disaster events with losses exceeding $1 billion each across the United States. In May 2013, tornadoes devastated part of central Oklahoma. This outbreak included the deadliest tornado of the year on May 19 in Moore, Oklahoma. In just one month, November 2013, at least 70 tornadoes spanned seven Midwestern states.  In addition, these events included a major flood event and a western drought/heat wave. These events resulted in 109 deaths.

       Each year, people suffer or are seriously injured by severe weather despite advance warning. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have partnered for the third year to highlight the importance of making severe weather preparedness a nationwide priority.

We all want the peace of mind of knowing that our families, friends, homes and our businesses are safe and protected from threats of any kind. While we can’t control where or when the next disaster will hit, we can take action by preparing ourselves and loved ones for emergencies and learning what actions to take.

Knowing your risk, taking action and being an example are just a few steps you could take to be better prepared to save your life and others.

Know your risk: The first step to becoming weather-ready is to understand the type of hazardous weather that can affect where you live and work, and how the weather could impact you and your family. During active weather, stay alert of the forecast by listening to radio or television, check the weather forecast regularly on weather.gov, obtain a NOAA Weather Radio and listen for Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) on your cell phone. Severe weather comes in many forms and your shelter plan should include all types of local hazards.

Take action: Develop an emergency plan based on your local weather hazards and practice how and where to take shelter before a severe weather event. Post your plan in your home where visitors can see it. Learn how to strengthen your home and business against severe weather. Take action and participate in a local event on April 30 through America’s PrepareAthon and ensure you know what to do when severe weather occurs.

Be a Force of Nature: Once you have taken action, tell your family, friends, school staff and co-workers about how they can prepare. Share the resources and alert systems you discovered through your social media network. Studies show that individuals need to receive messages a number of ways before acting – be one of those sources.

Learn more at www.weather.gov and www.ready.gov/severe-weather or the Spanish-language web site www.listo.gov. Follow the National Weather Service @nws and FEMA.

Reproduced with Permission

Part III: FRS Radio Communication

 Neighborhood Preparedness

 We’re three-fourths of the way through our series on preparing to execute an emergency preparedness drill in your neighborhood. We hope you are taking this information to your neighbors and encouraging them to be prepared, too. 

The adjacent article talks about using radios in an emergency, but the best way to know how to use your radios is to do just that – Use it. 

My neighborhood conducts a weekly radio check, which lasts only a couple of minutes, but serves as an opportunity for neighbors to practice using their radios, so in a disaster, they don’t have to try and learn. 

Every Sunday at 8:30 p.m. on channel 8, subchannel 1, our communication specialists welcomes everyone to the call and invites them to check in by stating their name. 

Once everyone has checked in (which is usually 3-7 people), we open it up for conversation about any topic on preparedness. 

These scheduled radio checks keep radios charged and used, so in an emergency, my neighborhood understands how to use them, which gives me a lot of peace of mind.                                            Jason M. Carlton

How to Communicate radio

Did you play with walkie-talkies as a child? Did you ever think that one day you would be using them as a means of communicating in a disaster? Well, if phone lines and cell towers are damaged in an emergency, a set of Family Radio Service (FRS) devices can help your neighborhood mobilize and communicate faster than boys on bikes.

In order for this tool to work most effectively, members of your neighborhood would need to have, and know how to use, FRS radios. Here are two things to consider when selecting the one that’s right for you:

1. The longer the range on your radio, the better you will be able to communicate throughout your neighborhood. FRS radios are line-of-sight transmissions. So if you have a lot of houses and trees between you and the person on the other end, communication may be difficult. For example, a radio that boasts 32 miles, may only provide two-miles in a populated neighborhood.

2. Many radios come with non-removable, rechargeable packs. These can wear out over time. The recommendation is to go with a radio that can also have this rechargeable pack replaced with AA batteries, which may help strengthen the signal when needed.

3. FRS radios contain channels, as well as subchannels. Make sure your radio has subchannel capabilities; otherwise you may be able to hear your neighbors, but not have the ability to communicate back to them.

These radios offer multiple channels that can be used in an emergency, so if your neighborhood needs to communicate, you must coordinate a channel on which all communication will take place. For example, your neighborhood can plan to communicate on channel 8, subchannel 1, while the neighborhood adjacent to yours can take channel 9, subchannel 1.

Another best practice is to designate a communications specialist for your neighborhood who can direct all radio traffic. This person will keep things orderly when crisis strikes and help those seeking to identify families’ needs obtain the information vital to responding.

October, 2011         Every Needful Thing                             Jason M. Carlton

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Part IV: Executing the Drill

Executing the drillTime to Execute the Drill

The actual execution of the drill is a powerful way to identify just how ready you and your neighbors are. Taking into account the previous three items discussed in this newsletter (organizing block captains, color codes of emergencies, and radio communication), here are the final elements to carrying out a successful drill.

PICK A DATE & TIME 

The drill works best on a Saturday morning, between the hours of 7 a.m. and 10 a.m. Select a Saturday that will work best for your neighbors by taking into account school events, or sports games. Plan for the event four weeks in advance, so you have time to coordinate with block captains and other participants.

DESIGNATE DAMAGED HOUSES & INJURIES 

Using the color codes, assign 15-20 yellow and red cards to random houses throughout your designated area. Write something on the card explaining the situation.

If you have difficulties identifying homeowners to participate, ask them if you can simply attach the card to an exterior portion of the house, and the participating block captain can simply read the card, rather than knocking and interrupting the homeowner.

SELECT THE RADIO CHANNEL 

If you haven’t already designated a FRS channel for your radio, pick the one you plan to use for the drill, and communicate that to participating block captains.

READY? GO! 

At the designated start time, announce over the radio that the drill has begun. Block captains will proceed to check their designated homes and report back to the Coordination Center.

The coordinator will keep a list of the damage and injuries reported by the block captains.

If you have CERT teams in your neighborhood, they can discuss how they would address each of the injuries. If some areas are missing block captains, the coordinator will need to direct block captains who have completed their own sweep to survey other blocks, too.

Once everything has been reported, get everyone together and debrief the event. This is where you will learn the most, and can implement any best practices into your next drill.

November, 2011 Every Needful Thing                             Jason M.Carlton

Emergency Communications

There are two major aspects of communication

First is remaining informed. What is the current situation, what alternatives are available and how can you get this information? The second is keeping in touch with family members to implement your personal emergency plan, and contacting emergency service personnel, should you require immediate attention.
The biggest problem with keeping informed will come if electricity is out. This means no television or radio and no internet.  Your computer can run on batteries for a while, but without internet you will not be up to date. What do you do?
A battery operated radio, tuned into an AM channel (AM radio waves are omni-directional) will provide some news and weather updates. A hand cranked radio will not require a stock of batteries. Emergency alert radios broadcast weather forecasts and warnings provided by the Emergency Broadcast System. These radios have an alarm system that comes on automatically to give warnings if an alert has been issued in your area.
Citizen Band radio (CB) popular a few years back, can provide useful information about road conditions, but don’t have a long range.

Local emergency scanners will let you listen in to local communications between fire, police, local safety personnel as well as government transmissions. These are more expensive and most useful if you are involved professionally.
Ham radios, also known as amateur radios, are reliable and involve thousands of operators throughout the world. In addition to equipment, and a tower, an FCC license is required. [http://www.aarl.org]

Emergency communications when separated

If an emergency occurs when your family is separated, your stress level as to their location and condition will raise. Your first thought will be to grab your telephone. Is it working? If it needs electricity and the power is out, it is useless. An old, landline phone will.
Hopefully, you have kept your cell phone batteries charged. As long as the towers are functioning, it will work. In a local disaster, the circuits may be jammed with users doing exactly what you are. Shift modes to text messaging. These take less band width and will go through easier.
Also consider that a long distance telephone call may be easier to make than a local one. When you make your Family Emergency Plan, include an out-of-town contact as your family’s contact person. Everyone in your family should have a copy of this contact information and be instructed to phone that number to check in. Take the time to make hard copies of this just in case high-tech equipment doesn’t work.
Emergency CommunicationsAnother option is to have a set of “walkie-talkie” radios. Formally referred to as a hand held transceiver, these are useful for communicating with others while hiking,  biking, and working; keeping track of family members in a crowded public event; checking with travel companions between cars; or talking with neighbors and arranging meeting places. The Cobra Microtalk set we have also has a NOAA all hazards radio channel.

 

October 2013, Every Needful Thing                               Billie A. Nicholson, editor       

 

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