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Steve Shelton, MD
Emergency preparedness is the continuous process by which we manage all hazards in an effort to avoid or limit the impact of disasters resulting from the hazards. Weather is a potential major hazard during this time of the year. Palmetto Health recognizes this and recently became one of the few hospitals in the nation to be certified as StormReady by the National Weather Service. More information about StormReady can be found at (http://www.stormready.noaa.gov/.
Weather emergencies can affect all of us. It is important for us to be familiar with weather alert systems and have a plan to react to dangerous weather. The following are important weather definitions:
Severe Thunder Storm produces hail that is at least one inch in diameter, winds of 58 mph or higher, or a tornado.
Tornado is a violently rotating column of air extending from a thunderstorm to the ground.
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. Immediate action is needed for a warning.
Watch is used when the risk of hazardous weather or hydrologic event has increased significantly, but its occurrence, location, and/or timing is still uncertain. It is intended to provide enough lead time so that those who need to set their plans in motion can do so.
The National Weather Service will use a combination of these definitions to alert the public of weather emergencies. For example, a Tornado Warning means that a tornado is in your area or has a very high probability of occurring. A warning requires immediate action by you.
The National Weather Service alerts are not beneficial to your safety unless you know about them. One method of remaining aware is with a Public AlertTM certified NOAA Weather Radio with battery back-up to receive warnings. In addition, National Weather Service alerts can be issued by text message to phones and pagers.
A weather warning requires an immediate response. The National Weather Service provides the following advice for tornados.
The safest place to be is an underground shelter, basement, or safe room.
If no underground shelter or safe room is available, a small, windowless interior room or hallway on the lowest level of a sturdy building is the safest alternative.
Mobile homes are not safe during tornadoes. Abandon mobile homes and go to the nearest sturdy building or shelter immediately.
If you are caught outdoors, seek shelter in a basement, shelter or sturdy building. If you cannot quickly walk to a shelter:
1) Immediately get into a vehicle, buckle your seat belt and try to drive to the closest sturdy shelter.
2) If flying debris occurs while you are driving, pull over and park. Now you have the following options as a last resort:
Stay in the car with the seat belt on. Put your head down below the windows, covering with your hands and a blanket if possible.
If you can safely get noticeably lower than the level of the roadway, exit your car, and lie in that area, covering your head with your hands.
Additional information about weather emergencies can be found at:
While weather is an important emergency, it is not the only one. We encourage you to have a basic family plan in the event of an emergency. This link to our downloadable Family Emergency Preparedness Guide can assist you in preparing for the unknown.