Friday, April 3, 2015

TOP STORY >> Getting up to speed on tornado safety

By Senior Airman Stephanie Serrano
19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

It’s 5 a.m. and what starts out as a deep low siren begins to climb higher into a loud three-to-five minute wailing steady tone.

For many Arkansas residents, the tornado siren is a familiar sound; some people will ignore it and others will not know what to do.  

Tornado season is upon Central Arkansas yet again. 

The base is not immune from severe weather. The aftermath of the April 2011 EF-2 tornado that ripped through the base left more than 100 on-base houses destroyed, three C-130 aircraft inoperative and buildings along the flight line damaged. Likewise, the devastating EF-4 tornado in April 2014, killed approximately 15 people in Vilonia, injured dozens more and destroyed multiple homes.

Tornadoes can appear in the blink of an eye, and everyone needs to be prepared, have a plan and stay safe. 

“Whether a person has been around tornados their whole life or you are new to them, preparation is still very crucial,” said Rick Myers, 19th Airlift Wing safety manager. “Practice drills frequently, especially if you have children; that way, everyone knows what to do.” 

Something many people confuse is the difference between a tornado watch and a tornado warning. A tornado watch means there are possibilities of a tornado; continue to remain alert. A tornado warning, on the other hand, means a tornado has been indicated by the weather radar system or visibly sighted.

Once the sirens sound, seek shelter immediately. 

“Stay informed about the weather as much as possible.  If a tornado warning is underway, go to the innermost part of the structure to take cover,” Myers said.

Before the storm, everyone should be prepared and know what to do in the event of a tornado. 

One way to be prepared is to have a weather kit, which should include water, food, flashlights and a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration weather radio. This will help ensure you can stay informed about the weather if there is a possible power outage. 

Always remember to develop a plan for the safety of you and your family.  

The best places to take cover are in a bathroom or basement. Stay away from windows and always stay indoors. 

If you are caught outdoors or perhaps in your car, get out and find the closest ditch or lowest point to take cover in. Stay away from overpasses if possible, which is an easy place to be swept up by the tornado. Never try to outrun a tornado in your car.

There are many different ways to stay updated on the weather such as weather alert apps, radios and TVs. It’s also important to update your AtHoc notification system to receive updates straight to your phone about what’s going on, on base. 

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