Indiana's Severe Weather Preparedness and Flood Awareness Week.
There will be a statewide tornado drill at 10:10 a.m. and 7:35 p.m. Tuesday, March 21, giving residents, schools and businesses an opportunity to practice their respective plans. Beckman said it's important to take these drills seriously. "We fall into a little bit of a sense of 'it's not going to happen here' or 'they're just setting the sirens off and nothing's going to happen' and that's the worst thing we can do," Beckman said.
Indiana state officials are encouraging Hoosiers to heed the message behind Indiana's Severe Weather Preparedness and Flood Awareness Week, which lasts through Saturday(3-25-2017).
Indiana is no stranger to severe weather, as Gov. Eric Holcomb's proclamation for the week illustrates by recalling the state getting hit by 15 tornadoes in 1992, the record 72 twisters in 2011 and the federal disaster declaration for the southern part of the state following powerful storms in 2012. Howard County have seen some destructive tornadoes as recently as last year and 2013. Cass County Emergency Management Agency Director Alvin Beckman said the county has been "fairly lucky" as far as extensive weather damage as of late, it too has seen tornadoes, high-wind storms and its waterways swell in recent years. That's why Beckman is echoing the Indiana Department of Homeland Security's(IDHS) advice for severe weather preparedness this week, which is made up of three parts: planning, preparing and practicing.
"You want to have that plan done ahead of time instead of trying to come up with one as you're dealing with tornado damage or wind damage or something like that," Beckman said. Beckman and the IDHS suggest getting a weather radio. The IDHS recommends one with a label indicating it's "all-hazard" that dispatches alerts from the National Weather Service. A National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration label is ideal too, along with one designating SAME technology, which "allows radios to be programmed to specific counties and types of alerts," according to an IDHS press release. Beckman said the radios cost between $30 and $40.
Knowing the difference between watches and warnings is important too. Watches indicate the possibility of a thunderstorm or tornado while warnings are issued when such weather patterns are confirmed in the area. The IDHS and Beckman encourage residents to pay attention to local media alerts and to take all of them seriously.
It's important for schools and businesses to also have those plans, Beckman said, and to update them over time as elements affecting them change.
The IDHS goes on to suggest preparing a kit with food and water for three days, first-aid materials, flashlights, batteries, small tools, at least a set of FRS handheld radios(If you have a license for the GMRS radios, than those would be a better radio to use.) and any other items needed.
Prune tree limbs and secure outdoor items that could be affected by high winds, IDHS continues. Residents should make sure cellphones are charged and that all household members have phone numbers of friends and family.
Keep neighbors in mind who have disabilities or mobility challenges to be able to direct first responders to them should they need help, IDHS also recommends.
Practice taking household members quickly but calmly to where they should go in severe weather. Ideally that's a basement or storm shelter, according to the IDHS. If one isn't available, head to an interior room on the lowest level with no windows. If the bathroom has no windows, that would be a preferred place to go. Another drill residents should run is getting under a sturdy table or desk or covering up with pillows, blankets, coats or a mattress to protect oneself from flying debris, according to the IDHS press release. Rehearsing evacuation routes both from home and the neighborhood is another exercise that will help Hoosiers prepare for severe weather.
Parents can help their children be prepared by having them pretend to call 911 and practice calmly talking with an emergency dispatcher, the IDHS suggests, adding a family member or friend could take on the dispatcher role.
Another weather event the IDHS and Beckman want residents to be aware of is flooding, especially with the upcoming arrival of spring. Both urge drivers not to attempt to drive on flooded roads, even if the water looks shallow, as the road may have washed out under the surface. The IDHS also recommends residents look into getting flood insurance if they don't already have it. More information is available at floodsmart.gov. The IDHS is posting more information on severe weather preparedness on Facebook and Twitter at @IDHS throughout the week. More information is also available at getprepared.in.gov.