Severe Weather Awareness Week stresses emergency preparedness

March 24, 2019

Local emergency management officials are gearing up for Nebraska Severe Weather Awareness Week, which is recognized March 25-29.

The week, which is held before tornado season begins in April, is designed to highlight to businesses and families to practice their tornado and other drills, Region 21 Emergency Management Director Tim Newman told the Star-Herald.

“The week is designed to remind us that severe weather season is beginning and we all need to take steps to be ready, by making a safety plan and reviewing proper safety precautions for protecting our lives.”

After the recent flooding in eastern Nebraska, preparedness is on the minds of many.

As people have witnessed severe weather with the flooding in eastern Nebraska and the recent blizzard, Newman said he does project their may be more interest by businesses and families on preparedness.

“Usually, when there is a large disaster, it makes people think about their own planning,” he said. “Now, (the key) is to get them to act on it. Everyone hears advertisements to make a plan, and be ready, but you have to have to that.”

Newman said he urges people to prepare for all possible scenarios when gathering supplies and packing bags or items to be ready for a disaster. That way, he said, you don’t have to try to figure out which bag to take with you if you need to leave your home.

During Severe Weather Awareness Week, a statewide mock tornado drill will be held on Wednesday, at about 9 a.m. Newman said he urges schools, health care facilities and businesses to participate in disaster drills when the sirens sound.

“It is good that they practice their severe weather plan,” he said. “Everyone goes through the motions so they go where they need to. It can serve as a reminder, and without practice, things can go wrong.”

Region 21 Emergency Management will test sirens that are accessible by the communications center. Other communities that control their sirens usually test sirens at that time as well. Newman did caution that sirens won’t be tested if temperatures are at or below 32 degrees Fahrenheit as the sirens can freeze. During the test, police, fire and other volunteer personnel will listen to make sure all sirens have sounded.

Newman does remind people that outdoor sirens are meant to warn people who are outdoors to take cover. They are not meant to be heard inside a residence or business.

“They are called outdoor warning sirens, not because they are outdoors, but to remind people who are outdoors during an event,” he said. “They remind people to go inside, tune into local information and recognize that the area is under an alert.”

For indoor systems, Newman said, he recommends having a NOAA weather alert radio, which will sound when an alert has been issued. People interested in other tips for weather preparedness, including devising your own tornado plan, can visit the National Weather Service website, www.noaa.gov or its preparedness site, ready.gov.