April 24, 2014

Heard County Is a Force of Nature and You Can be Too

Heard County is proud to be promoting National Severe Weather Preparedness Week March 3-9, 2013. During this week we are asking our employees and members of the community to Be a Force of Nature and better prepare for severe weather threats in our area. As a committed leader for weather-readiness, Heard County will be highlighting ways individuals can Be a Force of Nature by knowing the risk, taking action and serving as an example.

Sponsored by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), National Severe Weather Preparedness Week is a nationwide effort to increase awareness of severe weather and to motivate individuals, families, businesses, and communities to take actions that will prepare them in the event of severe weather.

Each year, individuals are killed or seriously injured by tornadoes and other types of severe weather, despite advance warning. In 2012, there were more than 450 weather-related fatalities and nearly 2,600 injuries. Severe weather knows no boundaries and affects every individual.

force_of-Nature_iconHeard County Board of Commissioners Chairman Lee Boone commented: “The Heard County Board of Commissioners is committed to ensuring the safety of our community, and citizens play an important role. By taking a few steps now you can be better prepared and assist in saving lives.”

Heard County provides many avenues for notification of dangerous weather. They include an emergency telephone notification system, posting on facebook, and the use of outdoor severe weather sirens.

Chief Blue of Heard County Fire & Emergency Services explained that the sirens are normally only set off for tornado warnings and severe thunderstorm warnings which pose a high risk, such as winds over 80 mph or large hail. The sirens are set off continuously during the warning with short breaks every 3 to 5 minutes.

There is no longer a signal for all clear, when the sirens stop for more than a few minutes; this is the signal the warning is over. What’s the difference between a watch and a warning? This is a question he receives often. Chief Blue stated, “A watch means conditions are right for dangerous weather. In other words, a “watch” means watch out for what the weather could do, be ready to act.”  During a watch you should do the following;

  • For events that come and go quickly, such as severe thunderstorms, tornadoes or flash floods, a watch means that the odds are good for the dangerous weather, but it’s not yet happening.

  • For longer-lived events, such as hurricanes or winter storms, a watch means that the storm isn’t an immediate threat.

  • For either kind of event, a watch means you should keep up with the weather and be ready to act.

Chief Blue stated that, “a warning is issued when hazardous weather is occurring, is imminent, or has a very high probability of occurring. A warning is used for conditions posing a threat to life or property.” He stressed that during a warning everyone should be ready to take shelter immediately.

Heard County conducts a silent test of the sirens each morning. In addition, an audible test of our outdoor sirens is conducted on the first Wednesday of each month around noon. In order to prevent confusion, this test is only conducted during fair weather.

Steps that can help you to, “Be a Force of Nature,” include the following:

Know your risk: The first step to becoming weather-ready is to understand the type of hazardous weather that can affect where you live and work, and how the weather could impact you and your family. Every state in the United States has experienced tornadoes and severe weather, so everyone is exposed to some degree of risk. Heard County is no exception, over the years we have experienced tornados, severe thunderstorms, drought, floods, heat waves, and winter storms. Check the weather forecast regularly and visit ready.gov/severe-weather to learn more about how to be better prepared and how you can protect your family during emergencies.

Pledge and take action: Be a Force of Nature by taking the Pledge to Prepare at ready.gov/severe-weather. When you pledge to prepare, you will take the first step to making sure that you and your family are prepared for severe weather. This includes filling out your family communications plan that you can email to yourself, putting an emergency kit together, keeping important papers and valuables in a safe place, and getting involved. Obtain a NOAA Weather Radio, and check to see if your cell phone is equipped to receive Wireless Emergency Alerts and sign up for localized alerts from emergency management officials.

To sign up for weather alerts in Heard County through the Global Connect System go to the Heard County websites at www.heardcountyga.com or www.heardfire.com, you can also contact Heard County Fire & Emergency Services to register by telephone at 706-675-6186 Monday – Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Stay informed by having multiple sources for weather alerts – NOAA Weather Radio, Weather.gov, and Wireless Emergency Alerts. Subscribe to receive alerts at http://www.weather.gov/subscribe.

Be an example: Once you have taken action share your story with your family and friends. Create a YouTube video, post your story on Facebook, comment on a blog, or send a tweet. Studies show that many people use social media in the event of a disaster to let relatives and friends know they are safe. This is an important trend because people are most likely to take preparedness steps if they observe the preparations taken by others. Social media provides the perfect platform to demonstrate preparedness actions for others. 

More information and ideas on how you can Be a Force of Nature can be found at Ready.gov/severe-weather. Information on the different types of severe weather such as tornadoes, severe thunderstorms and flooding is available at www.weather.gov and ready.gov/severe-weather or the Spanish-language web site www.listo.gov.

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