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Posted 5/1/11 By: Modern America Preparedness
Hello, I hope you are safe and all is going well today. Today's post is going to be different from what I originally planned on covering. As a result of the devastating tornado outbreak in Alabama, I decided to share some general thoughts about preparedness. The high death toll from this monster storm really convinced me of how unprepared most Americans are. I mean no disrespect to anyone that lost their life or anyone that was injured, but I truly believe that the lack of personal planning / preparedness resulted in the high fatality rate. I know that there are cases where people tried to seek cover from the storm but still lost their life. I feel a great sense of sadness for the families that suffered the loss of a loved one or physically lost everything. It is really amazing to me that with the prediction from the National Weather Service about a severe weather outbreak the day before. not to mention the 24/7 coverage from the Weather Channel in the region and the actual tornado sirens, that the fatalities still exceeded 300. I fault the complacency of our present society for the direct lack of respect for such a powerful force of nature. If only more people would have had an action plan for such an emergency, they might still be alive. I know that it sounds like I'm berating those who perished, which is not the case at all. I base my assessment from personal experience. After living though an F5 tornado, my perspective on the violent forces of nature is different. Having lived in the Midwest all my life, I knew that severe thunderstorms could produce strong winds, damaging hail, and even tornadoes. I never dreamed how quickly things could go bad, but on the evening of April 26, 1991, I would learn that lesson all too well.
I remember that it had been windy all day. As I was leaving work I noticed how dark and green the sky looked to the west. As I drove home I thought to myself that we would most likely get some large hail out of the approaching storm system. I never would have thought that in the short time span of 10-15 minutes, the weather could go from possibly having a severe thunderstorm to a having a killer tornado on the ground. Once the tornado sirens started sounding, I looked out the upstairs window to see the tornado approaching. I thought that it looked like it would be a direct hit on my condominium. Because I did not have a storm shelter at the condo, I knew there would be little or no chance of surviving a direct hit for this storm. So I quickly grabbed my car keys and evacuated the premises. Considering what I knew about tornadoes, I would need to be below ground level. I decided to head down the street to the safest place I could think of, the 5 foot tall culvert that passed under the street. It turned out to be a safe place and possibly saved my life, as the twister passed within 200 yards of my location. I was one of the lucky ones, I did not lose my life and the tornado missed my condo by about 1/4 mile.
The whole area around Wichita and Andover, in my opinion, had developed a very casual attitude toward severe weather. After the trail of destruction and loss of life that this killer tornado left, that attitude would change. The mobile home parks put in community storm shelters, some homeowners created safe places in their basement, and some people developed action plans. Possibly the biggest change after the storm was how people viewed severe weather. I know that my experience altered my perspective of thunderstorms. To this very day I check the weather forecast at least 3 times a day, even more if the forecast is calling for severe weather. I put together emergency evacuation bags for each member of my family.
My personal favorite act of preparation is the action plan. An action plan is something that is tailored to your own personal situation. I believe that to really have a chance of surviving a tornado, you need to be below ground or in an engineered safe room. This creates a big challenge for most people, including myself. I, like many homeowners, do not have a basement in my house, and building a safe room would be cost prohibitive in most cases. So this leaves the action plan as the most effective preparation in most cases. My personal preparedness for a tornado consists of an action plan. Modern technology (cable TV) and the early warning system (sirens) make this a safe reliable option for me and my family. The action plan for my family looks like this:
· Prepared emergency evacuation bags for each member of the family, and placed by the back door. Each member of the family knows where these are located.
· Mapped out 3 evacuation routes based on which direction the storm is approaching.
· Keep vehicles in top working condition, and filled with fuel. Both of our vehicles have first aid kits.
· Monitor the weather multiple times throughout the day and evening. Keep the weather alert radio on during the night time hours.
· Respect all warnings and respond to all calls to take immediate action.
· Evacuate quickly if the storm will come within 5 miles of our home. If we are unable to evacuate for some unforeseen reason, move to the interior hallway and place mattresses on top of ourselves.
· Return home only after the storm has passed or the all clear is given.
I have used this emergency action plan 3 times in the last 13 years and it has been effective for my family. Every person and situation is different so their plan will no doubt look different. If you do not already have an emergency action plan for severe weather, please start one this week. Remember the best defense against a tornado is not to be anywhere close to it; you want to be miles away from it, if possible. You should never be disillusioned about tornadoes they are killers and should be treated as such. Storm spotting and chasing is extremely dangerous and should only be done by trained emergency personnel.
Until next time be safe.