How we CAN Do Better as a State to Reduce Death and Injuries from Severe Weather.

By Jim Stefkovich, Meteorologist, Alabama Emergency Management Agency

CLANTON – Friday 8:00 am, May 6, 2022

Yesterday I discussed some of the factors as to why Alabama leads the nation in tornado fatalities.  You can read that by clicking here. Today, let’s focus on how we all play a part in helping to reduce this.

The People Factor

The simple fact is that we all have a responsibility to protect ourselves and our loved ones.  Keep up to date with forecasts and find out if severe weather is forecast a day or more in advance from a trusted source such as your local Emergency Management Agency, media, or National Weather Service (NWS)

Being able to identify where you live and county name on a map, having a severe weather plan before severe weather strikes, receiving warnings in real-time, and getting to a safe place with some type of helmet (sports or bicycle) can reduce the chances of death or injury.

If you work outside the home, be proactive and make sure there is a severe weather plan in place and know where to go when a warning is issued.   The following information put together by NWS Birmingham is a great place to find out much of this information. Severe Weather Awareness Week

Another is Plan Ahead for Disasters | Ready.gov

As I said in yesterday’s blog, no single method of receiving warnings is fail-proof. You need at least two methods, one of which is NOT an outdoor warning siren.  NOAA Weather Radio and warning cell phone apps from a trusted source are all recommended.  Make sure your Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) is activated on your cell phone.

Finally, be a potential hero to someone else!  Don’t assume your friends and/or family have a plan or even get warnings in real-time.  Talk to them, especially during a warning situation.  You could save their life!

The Structures We Live and Work In

Although more stringent building codes to withstand high winds are not in place, this doesn’t mean you can’t do this yourself.  You can build a saferoom within your home Safe Rooms | FEMA.gov   There are also pre-built small shelters that can be placed within your home.  Just make sure you do some research and ensure they are FEMA rated to withstand high winds.

A great program to become involved with either for new home construction or reinforcement of existing homes is  FORTIFIED Home – Homepage – FORTIFIED – A Program of IBHS  Thousands of homeowners across Alabama have already used this program.

Unfortunately, when it comes to Manufactured Homes (MHs), which are often mislabeled as mobile homes or trailers, the scientific evidence points to the fact that you should not stay in one during a tornado warning and instead go to a sturdier building or shelter.   Due to a number of factors, it is not lost on myself and others that leaving a MH is not always possible for some. 

Still, there are anchoring methods that can be done to withstand the upward forces that high winds produce.  This can be found here GUIDE TO FOUNDATION AND SUPPORT SYSTEMS FOR MANUFACTURED HOMES (huduser.gov)

Shelters

In 2021, Governor Kay Ivey passed into law the Safer Places Program.  The intent of this law is for county Emergency Managers to identify and provide better relative protection from the threat of severe weather for residents who don’t have access to FEMA-rated shelters.   To find where these are located in your county, use the following link to contact your county Emergency Management office.  County EMA Directory – Alabama Emergency Management Agency

We will never be able to stop severe storms from affecting our state, but we can, together, do things to protect ourselves when they do strike.

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