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  • Be Prepared for Anything this Tornado Season

    Supercell over the Great Plains tornado season Supercell over the Great Plains

    My family used to live on the western side of Tornado Alley. My husband worked as a sheriff’s deputy. When a supercell – the storm system that produces tornadoes – developed, he had to follow it. First, he needed to make sure a tornado wasn’t developing or heading toward a population center. Second, he needed to close roads to keep amateur tornado chasers away from a tornado’s path. With good reason. Our family once followed a wall cloud during a tornado warning and it seemed like half the town was on the road with us.

    On April 21, NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center used the phrase “Severe weather outbreak possible” to describe an April 26 forecast for potential major storms in Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas. Six days in advance they forecast a moderate risk of severe storms and tornadoes. This was the earliest in advance the center had ever used that phrase, according to SPC representative Keli Pirtle, in a story by the Associated Press.

    That’s useful for emergency managers but might be counterproductive for others. In a study published in 2011, researchers found a longer warning time before a tornado would make more than 44 percent of respondents feel that the situation was less life threatening.

    Also, four times more people said they would try to flee, which could be dangerous. On May 31, 2013, according to the AP story, the widest tornado recorded killed eight people west of Oklahoma City. A National Weather Service assessment said all eight were in their vehicles.

    "Everyone had always thought that increasing lead time was good," Kim Klockow, a visiting scientist at NOAA headquarters told the AP. "People just don't like to be sitting ducks."

    So, why provide a forecast with such a long lead time? One meteorologist told the AP he wanted people to take the time to prepare.

    "Can they go out and buy a weather radio this weekend? Can you vacuum the spider webs out of your storm shelter?" asked Rick Smith, the warning coordination meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Norman. "It's April. We're in Oklahoma and Texas. We need to be doing this anyway."

    Here are some ways to prepare for tornado season.

    Home & Tornado seasonFirst, have a plan and a place to go. That place can be in a home, in a personal storm shelter or in a public storm shelter. Seventy percent of respondents to the 2011 study said they had a tornado action plan. However, only 53 percent said they had a place to take shelter.

    Second, get a battery-powered or hand-cranked weather radio.

    Third, prepare a grab-and-go bag and personalize it. After the Japanese earthquake on April 18, 2016, Reuters reported shortages at shelters.

    "There's no milk and only the diapers we brought with us. Once they run out, there's nothing." one woman with a two-month-old told TV Asahi, according to the Reuters story.

    Fourth, keep copies of vital information stored offsite or easy to grab. When an apartment building burned in Brooklyn, N.Y., on March 30, the Red Cross offered preloaded debit cards to victims, according to the New York Times. However, to get the cards, the building’s residents had to have identification. One woman who ran out of her apartment without her ID fortunately remembered her employer had a copy. Not everyone was as lucky.

    Vital information can also include birth certificates, medical records and insurance information.

    Fifth, be prepared for more than just tornadoes. During the May 2013 tornado, according to the NWS repot, one woman said she and seven other people were sheltering in a cellar when it began filling with water from a flash flood.

    “We stayed in there until the water got too high,” she said. “We just hoped the tornado was over by that point.”

    Sixth, be cautious. After you’ve been through several tornado warnings, it’s easy to be blasé.

    Tornado's Coming! Tornado season

     

    Please don’t try what that above meme suggests. And if you must chase a tornado, obey law enforcement and stay out of its path. Four of the people killed during the May 31, 2013 Oklahoma tornado were storm chasers, three of whom were experienced professionals.

     

    How are you preparing for tornado season? Let us know in the comments!

     

    Disaster_Blog_Banner tornado season

  • Why You Should Drop Cover and Hold On During an Earthquake

    Within 50 years from now, scientists predict a large earthquake to strike Utah.

    Wasatch Fault Sign - Drop cover and hold onWith a 43% chance of a magnitude 6.75 or higher within that time frame, those in Utah really don’t have that much longer to prepare, all things considered. That’s why ShakeOuts are held every year, to help prepare the people to be as safe as possible during an earthquake.

    Utah is the only state to hold a ShakeOut in April (the other states hold theirs in October), and on April 21, 2016, another of these state-wide earthquake drills was conducted.

    Thousands of students, businesses, and homeowners – nearly a million in total – went through the motions of dropping, covering, and holding on – the suggested procedure to avoiding injury during a quake. Here’s why we drop, cover, and hold on during an earthquake.

     

    Drop

    DROP Cover and Hold OnYou never know how strong an earthquake is going to be. Even the first small jolt could be just the beginning of “the big one,” in which case you most certainly do not want to be on your feet. When the earth starts swaying, you can be knocked down quite easily. This is, of course, dangerous. Don’t wait to see if it’s “the big one” or not. Get down on the ground as quickly and safely as you can as soon as you feel the quake.

    Do your best to avoid exterior walls, windows, mirrors, and areas where heavy objects could fall on you. If you’re in bed, hold on and stay where you are. If you are outdoors, move to an open, clear area if you are able to safely do so. Steer clear of trees, power lines, and other hazards.

     

    Cover

    Drop COVER and Hold onOnce you’ve dropped safely to the ground, the next step is to protect yourself from falling objects. The best thing you can do is hide under a table or desk, but make sure your cover is sturdy. It won’t do much good if your table will just collapse on top of you.

    If you don’t have access to a desk, table, or similar shelter, then use your arms to cover your head and neck. Those two areas can be the most dangerous if struck by falling objects. Contrary to popular belief, standing in a doorway is not recommended. In modern homes, doorways are just as stable (or weak) as the rest of the home. There is also always a danger of flying objects caused by the earthquake, and by standing in a doorway you are opening yourself up to that danger. So stay down, and stay covered!

     

    Hold On

    Drop cover and HOLD ONEarthquake do just what their name implies – they shake the earth violently. If you’re not holding on to something during this shaking, you could be jolted around, thereby causing you more harm and injury. If you’re under a table or desk, grab hold of the legs or brace yourself against your cubicle walls (if you’re in an office).

    Once the earthquake stops, don’t run. Violent aftershocks could knock you off your feet. Once outside, again, stay away from power lines, trees, buildings, signs, and other potential hazards should another tremor come and knock things over.

     

    Being safe in an earthquake means starting now to prepare. Fasten down any objects that could fly off the walls or shelves. Anchor book cases to the wall. Find potential dangers in your home and take care of them. If you have a mantle over your bed, don’t keep any heavy objects on it, as they could fall on you during an earthquake.

    Likewise, prepare now with emergency food, water, gear, and other supplies. If an earthquake is strong enough, you could be left without those basic necessities, so at least have a 72 hour kit will keep you going until more help can arrive.

    Take the time today to prepare for an earthquake. They come without warning, and once they do, it’s too late to prepare.

    Just remember to drop cover and hold on!

     

    Earthquake Banner - Call to Action - Drop cover and hold on

  • 5 Types of Base Camp Shelters

    There are many reasons to setup a base camp shelter. Whatever your motivation, make sure you design and build one that meets your requirements and anticipates your needs. From underground bunkers to pine bough lean-tos, unique base camp shelters are needed for different scenarios.

    These five shelter types will cover most of your bases. Keep in mind that each shelter meets a different need. You may require more than one type for the scenario you are preparing for.

     

    1. Bunker

    Old abandoned bunker in forest - base camp

    This hidden shelter option has many advantages. Easily defensible, concealed, and well-fortified, a bunker shelter can provide safe and secluded base camp accommodations. Long-term food storage, rations, and other supplies can be easily concealed and kept safe until you need to access them. Bunkers can be equipped with generators and electricity, secure doors, multiple rooms, and other amenities of a permanent shelter.

    The size and location of a bunker may be limited by your access to land, and the amount of funds you are able to allocate to building one. Land, excavation, materials, and utilities can require a significant investment.

     

    1. Portable

    Portable shelters provide protection from the elements while allowing users to keep on the move. Trailers, tents, tarps, and tensioned fabric structures let you set up camp without having to own land, invest in excavating and building equipment, or devote a lot of time to building a permanent structure. Portable base camps should be designed for ease of setup and take-down, as well as stability in extreme weather events.

     

    1. Permanent

    Celtic Round House Base campA permanent base camp requires access to land and a significant investment in materials. Creating a permanent shelter is one of the most expensive base camp shelter options, but also one of the most comfortable and secure. A permanent shelter is more conspicuous than a bunker or a portable shelter. This type of shelter also provides many of the same amenities of a house. A permanent shelter may have running water, electricity, heating and cooling systems, and other comforts. It is important to remember that, unlike a bunker or a portable shelter, a permanent shelter will likely require a more established access route, such as a road, driveway, or established trail.

     

    1. Emergency

    An emergency shelter is necessary for quick and easy setup. This type of shelter is often located near a survival cache, and is meant as a temporary spot to regroup on the way to a more permanent base camp. An emergency shelter may also be required in an extreme weather event, such as a rainstorm, tornado, or blizzard. Emergency shelters can be crafted from many different materials. Having a tarp can make emergency shelter setup easy. If you aren’t that lucky, tree branches, rock outcroppings, or dry cave openings may have to suffice. Emergency shelters can be dug into the side of large snowdrifts, riverbanks, or small hills.  Survival caches setup ahead of time can also store tarps, ropes, and stakes in the event that an emergency shelter is needed.

     

    1. Semi-Permanent

    SafariTent_Open_Lifestyle_Moab_MattBarr_002_Web base campMore stable than an emergency shelter, yet not as immobile as a permanent one, a semi-permanent shelter can create a long-lasting, durable base camp that can be relocated or disassembled if necessary. Tensioned fabric structures can be anchored to nearly any surface to create a sturdy semi-permanent shelter. These types of shelters may have electricity and other utilities setup in mobile or temporary configurations.

     

    ______

    Jimmy Wall is an avid outdoorsman always advocating people to get outside. Living in Washington State, he says nothing is better than a climb up Mount Rainier to Camp Muir.

     

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