Thursday, April 24, 2014

Tornado Drill Day for MN Severe Weather Awareness Week

With the storms starting to ramp up just to our south (Nebraska, Texas area) just in the last couple of days; and with an expected outbreak coming for this weekend. Today is the day to take heed in participating in the Tornado Drills.

Today is the day for the annual Statewide Tornado Drills. The sirens will go off at 1:45pm and again tonight at 6:55pm.

Would you be ready in 13 minutes?

A tornado warning has been issued and you are in the path of one of the 1300 tornadoes that hit the U.S. each year. On average you now have 13 minutes to get to a safe place out of the severe weather.

Do you have a plan?

Where would you go?

Will you, your family, your students be safe?

Making a plan is the biggest thing you can do.

Tornado Safety Information
Before the Tornado...
Tornado watches highlight the area where tornadoes are most likely to develop. Continue with your normal activites, but keep informed of the latest weather information and be ready to get to shelter in case tornadoes develop quickly.

In the Home...
Go to the basement if possible. Get under a table, work bench, or some other sturdy furniture to avoid falling debris and cover yourself with a mattress or a sleeping bad. Know where your heavy objects rest on the floor above (ie: refrigerators, pianos, waterbeds, etc.) and do no place yourself under them. A stairwell is also a good place to hide during a tornado. AVOID WINDOWS.

If You Cannot Get to a Basement (or your house doesn't have one)
Go to a small interior room on the lowest floor. Closets, bathrooms, and interior halls afford the best protection in most cases, or try to hide under a bed. Crouch as low as possible to the floor, facing down; and cover your head with your hands. A bath rub may offer a shell of partial protection. In an interior room your should cover yourself with some sort of thick padding (mattress, blankets, etc) to protect yourself from falling debris.  Stay away from windows.

In an Apartment, or High Rise...
If you live in an apartment that is on an upper floor, get to the lowest level of the building that you can immediately. This could be an underground parking garage or a neighbor's first floor apartment. Move to the inner-most room on the lowest level or to a pre-designated shelter area.

If you live in a highrise you may not have enough time to get to the lowest level; so picking a place in the hallway in the center of your building is the best ideas situation. A place such as an interior stairwell would work. If that is not available; then a closet, bathroom or interior hall without windows would be best.  AVOID ELEVATORS; as power loss is common. Keep a flashlight handy. Stay away from windows. If in a hallway, crouch down and protect your head from flying debris. Avoid areas with glass and large roof expansions.

In an Office building, Hospital or Store...
Follow instructions from facility manager. Go directly to an enclosed, windowless area in the center of the building - away from glass and on the lowest floor possible. Crouch down and cover your head. Interior stairwells are usually good places to take shelter, and if not crowded, allow you to get to a lower level quickly. Stay off the elevators - if power was lost you would be trapped in them. Carry a flashlight is you can find one handy.

In A Mobile Home

Get out! Even if your home is tied down, you are probably safer outside, even if the only alternative is to seek shelter out in the open. Most tornadoes can destroy even tied-down mobile homes; and it is best not to play the low odds that yours will make it. If your community has a tornado shelter, go there fast. If there is a sturdy permanent building within easy running distance, seek shelter there. Otherwise, lie flat on low ground away from your home, protecting your head. If possible, use open ground away from trees and cars, which can be blown onto you. 

At A School

Follow the drill! Go to the interior hall or room in an orderly way as you are told. Crouch low, head down, and protect the back of your head with your arms. Stay away from windows and large open rooms like gyms and auditoriums.

In A Car or Truck

Vehicles are extremely dangerous in a tornado. If the tornado is visible, far away, and the traffic is light, you may be able to drive away from its path by moving at right angles to the tornado. Otherwise, park the car as quickly and safely as possible -- out of the traffic lanes.  Get out and seek shelter in a sturdy building.  If in the open country, run to low ground away from any cars (which may roll over on you). Lie flat and face-down, protecting the back of your head with your arms. Avoid seeking shelter under bridges, which can accelerate the wind while offering little protection against flying debris.

In The Open Outdoors

If possible, seek shelter in a sturdy building. If not, lie flat and face-down on low ground, protecting the back of your head with your arms. Get as far away from trees and cars as you can; they may be blown onto you in a tornado. 

In A Shopping Mall, Large Store or Stadium

Listen for instructions from building security. Watch for others. Move as quickly as possible to an interior bathroom, storage room or other small enclosed area, away from windows. Move away from any glass.

In a church or theater

If possible, move quickly but orderly to an interior bathroom or hallway, away from windows. Crouch face-down and protect your head with your arms. If there is no time to do that, get under the seats or pews, protecting your head with your arms or hands.

Know the Difference

Tornado Watch - Tornadoes are possible in and near the watch area. Review and discuss your emergency plans, and check supplies and your safe room. Be ready to act quickly if a warning is issued or you suspect a tornado is approaching. Acting early helps to save lives!

Tornado Warning - A tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. Tornado warnings indicate imminent danger to life and property. Go immediately under ground to a basement, storm cellar or an interior room (closet, hallway or bathroom).

Now that we understand where to go in a tornado warning: here is information on the test drill today.

Tornado Drill Day 

For more than 20 years, the state of Minnesota has conducted a Severe Weather Awareness  Week in partnership with the National Weather Service and local governments. A statewide tornado drill is part of that event.

Most local and statewide radio, TV and cable stations will be participating in the drill.  Television viewers and radio station listeners and TV viewers should hear or see a simulated tornado warning message at 1:45 p.m.  This tornado drill warning should last about one minute.  When the test is completed, stations should return to normal programming.  

In addition, alerts for both the simulated tornado watches and warnings will be issued over the NOAA Weather Radios in the area which will activate the radio alerts.  The afternoon drill will also occur at the same time in Wisconsin and is expected to be broadcast on most radio and TV stations.
Want to participate in the drill but don't know how? Check out this list  for some ideas on how you or your organization can participate. 


The National Weather Service, Wisconsin Emergency Management, the Minnesota Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, and other state, county and local agencies have come together to host Severe Weather Awareness Week activities.
On Thursday April 24, 2014 simulated tornado watches and warnings will be issued to test the statewide warning and communications systems. All counties in Minnesota normally participate in the first drill at 1:45 p.m. unless actual severe weather is expected. The schedule is as follows:
1:00 p.m.  All six weather National Weather Service offices that serve Minnesota will issue a simulated tornado watch (TOA).  NOAA Weather Radios will activate with the real TOA code.
1:45 p.m.  The National Weather Service will issue a simulated tornado warning (TOR) for Minnesota counties. Note that most cities and counties will activate outdoor warning siren systems. NOAA Weather Radios will activate with the real TOR code.
2:00 p.m. The National Weather Service will issue an "End of Test" message using the Severe Weather Statement product.  No alarm on weather radio.
6:55 pm.  The National Weather Service offices will issue another simulated tornado warning (TOR).  NOAA Weather Radios will activate with the real TOR code.
7:10 pm.  The National Weather Service will issue an "End of Test" message using the Severe Weather Statement product.  No alarm on weather radio.

Siren Activation Information

Counties and cities own, operate and maintain all local sirens, and set their own policy on how and when to activate them. The National Weather Service does not operate them. There are many different policies regarding siren activation that are used by the various cities and counties. Some will activate sirens across the entire county for tornado warnings only. 
Others will activate sirens countywide for tornado warnings and all severe thunderstorm warnings. Some will activate sirens across the entire county for tornado warnings and severe thunderstorms that have winds of at least 70 or 75 mph.

Others will activate sirens only for portions of counties.  Local officials may also sound the sirens anytime they believe severe weather is a threat, even if there is no warning from the National Weather Service.

Sirens normal sound for about three minutes, and then go silent.  It is very rare to keep the sirens sounding for the entire warning, since that would cause the backup battery to run out, which would be critical in the event that power goes out.  Furthermore, the siren motor will fail much more quickly if the siren sounds continuously.  Some jurisdictions may repeat siren activation every few minutes.
Note: There is no such thing as an all-clear siren.
Afternoon Tornado Drill April 24, 2014 - 1:45 p.m.
The drill traditionally occurs on Thursday afternoon at 1:45 p.m., when jurisdictions across Minnesota sound their outdoor warning sirens. Schools, businesses and other facilities are encouraged to conduct a tornado drill at this time to practice their tornado sheltering plans.

Evening Tornado Drill April 24, 2014 - 6:55 p.m.
The reason for a 6:55 p.m. drill is that severe weather including tornadoes occurs most often between 3 and 8 p.m. The statewide 1:45 p.m. drill gives institutions, first-shift and day workers a time to practice, but it does not allow second-shift workers the same opportunity.  The 6:55 p.m. tornado drill also allows families to practice their sheltering plans.
let's be prepared and make a plan, build an emergency kit, and stay informed.Learn the weather terminologies and be ready this up and coming severe weather season.

Here is some great links to learn more about tornadoes; research and how you can prepare for and be ready for in case this situation arises.

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