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Statewide tornado drill set for today

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

Sirens will go off today, shortly after 9 a.m., all over Georgia in a statewide tornado drill. Emergency management officials want to put the spotlight on being prepared for a twister.

The drill is part of Severe Weather Awareness Week.

"The purpose is to take this week and emphasize to the public the importance of being prepared for severe weather," said Buzz Weiss, a spokesman for the Georgia Emergency Management Agency. "Georgia experiences all types of severe weather, from snow to severe thunderstorms and lightening, to tornados, to hurricanes."

Gov. Sonny Perdue issued a proclamation Jan. 22 declaring Severe Weather Awareness Week, which began Sunday with Family Preparedness Day, and concludes Saturday, with Volunteer/Weather Spotters Day.

"It is vital that effective public education programs concerning severe weather systems and preparedness procedures continue for the benefit of all Georgians," Perdue said in the proclamation.

Thursday, public service announcements regarding the dangers of lightening will be highlighted, and flooding will be the issue of the day Friday. Monday, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration weather radios were in the spotlight, and thunderstorms were the focus Tuesday.

Weiss said as much as 80 percent of the public claims to be prepared for severe weather, "but if you ask them about their disaster plan, you find out people are really not prepared." He said an emergency preparedness kit, and a family emergency plan are things every household should maintain.

"You need to have that plan in place," Weiss said. "Families need to know where to get together [to be safe] during severe weather."

Weiss said officials are concerned about tornados because the season begins in March, and Georgia has had active seasons in recent years. In addition to the tornado which came through Ellenwood in May 2008, there was also a twister through downtown Atlanta last year.

Weiss said those caught in severe weather, like tornados, should minimize themselves as targets to prevent injury, or death. He said people can do this by hiding in a ditch if they are on the road, or by taking shelter in the lowest level of their house.

Weiss also said households should have weather radios, which can be purchased at electronics stores for as little as $16. The radios are battery-powered, and are activated by a tone sent out by the National Weather Service during severe weather events.

The state has a Web site for its Ready Georgia initiative, www.ready.ga.gov, which includes a checklist for emergency preparedness kits, and a section where users can create a customized family emergency plan. It also has contact information for local emergency management agencies.

Some of the items on the emergency preparedness kit checklist include prescription medicines, glasses, infant formula, diapers, pet food, copies of insurance policies and bank account records, cash or traveler's checks, sleeping bags or blankets, a change of clothing, matches, a fire extinguisher, personal hygiene items, mess kits, and games and books to keep children occupied.

People who visit the Web site and create a user profile will be entered in a drawing for a weather radio worth $250.

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On the net:

Georgia Emergency Management Agency: http://www.gema.state.ga.us/

Ready Georgia: http://www.ready.ga.gov/

Clayton County Emergency Management Agency: http://www.claytoncountyfiredepartment.com/ema/index.htm