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All About Tornado Preparation –Part 2

Tuesday, January 26th, 2016

Hurricane or Tornado BackgroundPart Two of a Two-Part Series                      

Tornadoes present a significant weather-related risk across much of the country. Last week, we began a two-part series about how to prepare for and recover from tornadoes, which is particularly important in 2016, thanks to El Niño. As noted in last week’s post, the Allied Universal Training System has recently added a tornado module to further enhance our comprehensive training program. Last week, our post covered what to do to prepare for a tornado. The following post will wrap up our two-week series, focusing on what to do during and after a tornado.

During a TornadoListening Radio

Many cities use an undulating, wailing warning system that sounds for three to four minutes to alert the public about tornadoes. If you hear this signal or are otherwise notified that a tornado is imminent:

  • Remain calm.
  • At home or work, go to the pre-determined safe zone or basement as quickly as possible.
  • If you are in a high-rise building, don’t stay in a large, open area that has windows. Instead, seek out a closet or interior hallway to take cover.
  • Do not leave the building.
  • If you cannot get to a safe zone or basement, seek shelter under a large, sturdy piece of furniture.
  • Steer clear of windows and avoid being hit by flying objects.
  • Listen to NOAA weather conditions.
  • If you are away from home, find a small, interior room or hallway and protect your head and neck with your arms and a coat or blanket.
  • If you are in a vehicle, do not attempt to outdrive the tornado. But do not stay in the car, as tornadoes can significantly damage automobiles. Park the car as quickly as possible, well away from traffic. If possible, find shelter in a sturdy building or underground. If you are not near a building, seek shelter in a spot that is at lowest level possible. It is a myth that an overpass would provide shelter from a tornado. It is far safer to literally lie low and cover your head and neck with your arms and a coat or blanket. But make sure you are far from trees and vehicles.

After a Tornado

Survival emergency kit for evacuation, vector objects set on white backgroundStudies have shown that a great deal of tornado-related injuries occur after a tornado when people are walking among the debris and enter damaged buildings. Injuries can also occur during rescue attempts, cleanup and other post-tornado activities. So be careful and follow these tips:

  • Unless you are facing a life-threatening situation, do not leave the safe zone until the warning has officially been lifted.
  • Listen for emergency information and instructions as well as weather updates and the “all clear” signal.
  • Do a quick survey of the damage to determine major hazards, looking for fires, leaks and electrical shorts.
  • Anticipate power outages and use the flashlight in your emergency kit to light the way as you check interior spaces and during evacuation.
  • Do not use an open flame or turn on electrical switches, especially if you smell gas.
  • Establish a safe location to use for triage. Do not move seriously injured people unless they are in immediate danger of further injury.
  • When it is safe to do so, use telephones for emergency calls, only.
  • Avoid unnecessary movement, which could stir up debris and affect breathing.
  • If you are trapped, tap on metal or another loud surface or, better yet, use a whistle to alert emergency responders. Shout only as a last resort.
  • When evacuation routes are determined to be safe and you are instructed to do so:
    • Evacuate
    • Remain calm
    • Do not use elevators
    • Proceed to the safest exit, using the most continuous handrail
    • Before opening any doors, feel the door with the back of your hand, to check for heat.
    • Proceed to your designated safe refuge area and check in.
    • Do not reenter the building until you are told it is safe to do so by building management and emergency responders.

Remember that safety is a daily priority, so be sure to think safety all of the time. A convenient and affordable way to make sure you are prepared for disasters and emergencies of virtually every kind is to subscribe to the Allied Universal Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services, which has been designed to help improve and save lives. For more information about the best system out there, or to subscribe, click here.

El Niño Weather Risks for 2016

Tuesday, January 12th, 2016

El nino conceptThe early January storms in Southern California brought not only rain and wind, but also a rare tornado warning for Los Angeles and San Diego. While the warnings didn’t pan out, meteorologists agree that 2016 will bring an increased chance of storms of many types across the entire country. Thanks to El Niño, emergency management professionals across the country are gearing up for what may be a banner year for weather. In fact, citing a worrying El Niño storm pattern this winter that could rival flooding in 1997 and 1998, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has prepared a 66-page Severe El Niño Disaster Response Plan targeted to milder climates such as California and other western states.

What exactly is El Niño? Technically, it is the warm phase of the El Niño Southern Oscillation (commonly called ENSO). In simple terms, bands of warmer ocean water develop near the equator. This abnormally warm ocean water then alters the atmospheric conditions to produce unpredictable weather events. Here are some tips for handling several potential facets of El Niño weather and tips for preparing your building for severe weather.

Perform Storm Water Inspections of Your Properties

Water flow from drainpipeConduct a property walk-through to spot water drainage problems that could be aggravated by El Niño storms. While on the walkthrough:

  • Check drainpipes and other piping used to channel rainwater. Be sure these are free of debris to potentially handle large quantities of water. Review storm patterns and associated damage from previous years to identify potential problem areas.
  • If your building has water pumps, ensure they remain in good working condition. Remove debris from strainers.
  • If storm drains are severely backed up, you may need to hire a professional who has tools such as cameras to quickly identify and solve the problem.
  • Test the drainage system for leaks. This is especially important in areas that house electrical equipment.
  • Does your building have ground-level storage or parking areas? Check the grading to identify areas which may be susceptible to flooding. Sandbags and other measures can help channel water flow away from high traffic areas.

Managing Snowfall

Natural Disaster Warning Signs, Family Running, Caution, Danger, Hazard Symbol SetThe Weather Channel’s Winter Storm Central details the typical effects of El Niño and La Nina relative to snow patterns. The hope is that the subtropical or southern-branch jet stream, typically turbo-charged during strong El Niño, will deliver long-awaited relief for at least some in the West. However, no one can equivocally guarantee that the drought will end even if El Niño performs as expected. The good news is that, so far this year, California is already experiencing heavier snowfall than normal, with several feet reported.

How to Handle Snow:

  • Use chains. Necessary even if you have a four-wheel drive vehicle, snow chains provide the traction necessary to escape snow-packed surfaces, though they remain relatively useless for traversing slick ice. Practice putting chains on your car in the comfort of your driveway instead of opening the package for the first time while you are stranded at the side of the road during a blizzard.
  • Keep exhaust pipes clear. If the pipe is blocked while the car is running, shovel an area around it for the gases to escape, instead of allowing them to filter back into the car.
  • Work with other motorists. If you are stranded during a snowstorm, make contact with other people so you can pool resources such as food, water, charged devices, and other items from your emergency supply kit.
  • Stay with the vehicle. Unless you have veered off the road, stay with the car as it will provide a certain degree of shelter.

Prepping your Building

Rain, tornadoes, and snow from El Niño could lead to a wide range of disaster threats this year. Here are some tips to help you (and building occupants) survive and resume normal operations as quickly as possible:

  • Use backup generators to provide a source of electricity to run sump pumps and to provide essential services to stranded occupants.
  • If applicable, paint your building (especially wood trim) with treated paint, which will repel water.
  • Conduct flood-proofing of your building, including the use of sandbags, attention to gutters, altering rooflines, and other fixes. FEMA has an extension section devoted to flood-proofing.

The effect of El Niño are global, with NASA predicting “weather chaos.” A theme of El Niño weather events is their unpredictability, with unusually-timed floods, blizzards, and the potential for tornadoes in unexpected places. Planning for the unexpected is a requirement for building and safety managers, so follow best practices to protect lives and property in 2016.

Remember that safety is a daily priority, so be sure to think safety all of the time. A convenient and affordable way to make sure you are prepared for disasters and emergencies of virtually every kind is to subscribe to the Allied Universal Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services, which has been designed to help improve and save lives. For more information about the best system out there, or to subscribe, click here.