03/05/13 — County students to participate in statewide tornado drill

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County students to participate in statewide tornado drill

By Staff Reports
Published in News on March 5, 2013 2:28 PM

Wayne County Public Schools students will join students from across the state Wednesday as they participate in the state's annual Severe Weather Awareness Week tornado drill.

All Wayne County schools, departments and administrative offices will participate in the statewide exercise at 9:30 a.m., said Ken Derksen, Wayne County Public Schools public information officer.

"We require that students and adults seek shelter in areas clear of windows, such as interior hallways," Derksen said. "Students in mobile classrooms are brought into the main building, as well as removed from gymnasiums, auditoriums and other rooms with a large expanse of roof."

No similar drills are planned by the county.

"We are doing as we have in years past and are going to work with the school system in the drill that they do," said Joe Gurley, Wayne County Office of Emergency Services director. "We monitor and stay in close contact with the school staff and support them."

Businesses, work places and families across the state are being encouraged to participate as well.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency and the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration have set aside March 3-9 to emphasize the need to be prepared and to know what to do before severe weather strikes.

This year, the state's Severe Weather Awareness Week corresponds with the National Severe Weather Preparedness Week.

The state's observance is an 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.

Last year, North Carolina was hit by 21 tornadoes and experienced 1,200 incidents of severe thunderstorms with damaging winds or large hail. The storms resulted in six fatalities, more than 50 injuries, and more than $25 million in damages across the state.

Also as a part of the observance the American Red Cross is encouraging people to "Be Red Cross Ready."

There are three actions everyone can take that can help make a difference: Get a kit, make a plan and be informed, Red Cross officials said.

The "Be Red Cross Ready" checklist is:

* Know what emergencies or disasters are most likely to occur in your community

* Have a family disaster plan and practice it

* Have an emergency preparedness kit

* Have ay least one member of the household who is trained in first aid and CPR/AED

* Take action to help your community prepare.

The Red Cross also has launched its official Tornado App.

The free app -- available in English or Spanish -- gives iPhone, iPad and Android smart phone and tablet users instant access to local and real-time information, so they know what to do before, during and after a tornado, said Autum Mihm, director of communications for the Eastern N.C. Region of the American Red Cross.

The app includes a high-pitched siren and tornado warning alert that signals people when a NOAA tornado warning has been issued in their area -- even if the app is closed.

An all-clear alert lets users know when a tornado warning has expired or has been canceled.

Other features of the app include:

* Location-based NOAA tornado, severe thunderstorm and flood watch and warning alerts

* Enhanced weather maps

* One-touch "I'm safe" messaging that allows users to broadcast reassurance to family and friends that they are out of harm's way

* Simple steps and checklists people can use to create an emergency plan and share with household members

* Pre-loaded content that gives users instant access to critical action steps, even without mobile connectivity

* Tool kit with flashlight, strobe light and audible alarm

* Locations of open Red Cross shelters.

While the apps can help prepare people for disasters, they are not a substitute for training.

Red Cross First Aid and CPR/AED training teaches people to know how to respond to emergencies in case advanced medical help is delayed. People can visit redcross.org/takeaclass for course information and to register.

Another option available for Wayne County residents is the free Code Red emergency notification system that sends severe weather warnings to cell and land-line telephones.

People may register online by going to waynegov.com and clicking on the Code Red link at the bottom of the home page. Gurley said anyone who has problems with the sign-up should call his office at 919-731-1416 for assistance.