Prepare for the unexpected during Severe Weather Week

COVINGTON -- Emergency management officials are urging citizens to participate in the upcoming Severe Weather Awareness initiative, which will take place for five days on Feb. 4-8.

The observance will emphasize a different aspect each day as follows:

-- Monday, Feb. 4 -- Family Preparedness/NOAA Weather Radio Day

-- Tuesday, Feb. 5 -- Thunderstorm Safety

-- Wednesday, Feb. 6 -- Tornado Safety (with a statewide tornado drill issued by the National Weather Service)

-- Thursday, Feb. 7 -- Lightning Safety

-- Friday, Feb. 8 -- Flood Safety

"We're just asking that you spend time with your family and go over some emergency preparedness measures," Newton County Emergency Management Deputy Director Jody Nolan said, adding that they are especially urging citizens who don't have an NOAA weather radio to get one.

"If people will think back a few years ago a tornado came through Cobb County and everyone knew severe weather was going on and people just went to bed. Several people were killed," he said.

And he recalled the 2011 tornados that touched down closer to home in Newborn where approximately $750,000 in property damage was done as trees were uprooted and fell on homes and where several citizens could easily have been killed. That episode also occurred in the middle of the night and a NOAA weather radio would have alerted residents.

Nolan said the radios are an essential element in protecting families from the sudden onset of severe weather. Locally, they are available at Kroger, which partnered with 11-Alive and has them at cost for approximately $39, and Radio Shack, which has a wider selection and are not that much more expensive.

"Those are the two locations where we've had the most luck in sending people to pick up a weather radio," he said.

The other element he sees as essential in preparing for severe weather is an emergency kit to be used in case of extended power outage or in the event you are forced out of your home.

"They should put together an emergency kit to be kept in the house that will last them for about three days and that should include food and water and also a one-day kit in a jump bag for all family members in case they have to leave the house for any reason," he said, recalling times he's seen families who were victims of fire who didn't even have a change of clothing.

"Most people have an outside storage building and I've always suggested that people keep at least one change of clothes in an outside storage building," he said. "Also, have some cash. If we have an ice storm that knocks out the ATMs, people can find themselves in a situation where they don't have any food, although they may have money in the bank."

Nolan said many of the victims of Hurricane Katrina had funds in local banks, but when they had to flee the area, couldn't access their money for gas, food and other essentials.

Another essential element to have access to is medications in the event you are unable to have prescriptions refilled and a back-up plan for obtaining other medical supplies such as oxygen.

And, Nolan said don't forget to make sure your smoke alarm will work without electricity -- make a habit of changing your batteries when the time changes twice a year.

"There's a much higher incidence of fires when the power is out because people are using alternate methods of lighting and heating," he said.

Items suggested at www.ready.ga.gov to keep on hand for weather and other emergencies include: water (at least 3 gallons per person for drinking and sanitation), food (at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food); can opener; battery powered radio or hand crank NOAA weather radio and extra batteries; flashlight with extra batteries; a whistle to signal for help; a face mask in case of contaminated air; plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter in place; moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation; a wrench or pliers to turn off utilities; and local maps.

Additional items to consider include prescription medications and extra glasses; infant formula and diapers; pet food and extra water for pets; important family documents such as copies of insurance policies, identification and bank account records in a waterproof, portable container; cash or traveler's checks and change; emergency reference material such as first aid book or other information also available at ready.gov; sleeping bag or warm blanket for each person; a complete change of clothing and sturdy shoes; household chlorine bleach and medicine dropper; fire extinguisher; matches in waterproof container; feminine supplies and personal hygiene items; mess kits, paper cups, plates, plastic utensils and paper towels; paper and pencil; and books, games, puzzles or other activities for children.

For more suggestions and complete instructions on creating a family emergency plan and other tips on preparing for the other subjects to be emphasized during the week, go to www.ready.ga.gov.