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Officials encourage emergency weather preparedness

Photo by Hugh Osteen

Photo by Hugh Osteen

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

Clayton County and state officials are encouraging residents to be prepared for any severe weather events that may blow through the area this year, weeks after much of north Georgia was shut down, for days, by a severe snowstorm.

In addition to snow, emergency management officials say there are several other severe weather events people need to be prepared for, including lightning, thunderstorms and flooding. The announcements come as the state prepares to observe Severe Weather Awareness Week on Feb. 7.

"Take time, now, to prepare for the extreme weather the rest of the year can bring," said Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA) Director Charley English, in a written statement. "Tornadoes, storms and floods can devastate our communities, but devastation can be minimized -- if we're prepared."

Clayton County Board of Commissioners Chairman Eldrin Bell said, in a proclamation issued earlier this week, that the county's public safety departments, its cities, school and library systems, Board of Health, the Clayton News Daily, Clayton Amateur Radio Emergency Services, GEMA, the National Weather Service, and the American Red Cross have committed themselves to promote weather preparedness.

"I, Eldrin Bell, chairman, on behalf of the Clayton County Board of Commissioners, do hereby proclaim the week of Feb. 7-11, 2011, as Severe Weather Awareness Week in Clayton County, and encourage our citizens to become more aware of severe weather safety measures, and to participate in the various awareness programs scheduled during the week," the proclamation states.

Each day of Severe Weather Awareness Week will have a specific weather theme, according to Clayton County Fire and Emergency Services.

The themes are: Family Preparedness and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Weather Radio Day (Feb. 7); Thunderstorm Safety (Feb. 8); Tornado Safety (Feb. 9); Lightning Safety (Feb. 10), and Flooding (Feb. 11).

GEMA has announced it will conduct a statewide tornado drill on Feb. 9.

In a written statement, Clayton County Interim Fire Chief Jeff Hood said families should use the first day of Severe Weather Awareness Week as an opportunity to make sure they know what to do when severe weather happens. Hood is also Clayton County's emergency management director.

"Family Preparedness Day is a time for every family to plan and rehearse what they should do during the first 72-hours of any severe weather-related event or disaster," Hood said. "With a little time and effort, families can prepare for severe weather hazards affecting our area. Developing a family disaster plan is the first step."

Clayton County Fire and Emergency Services, and GEMA are recommending that people take several steps to be prepared for severe weather, including having every family member learn important phone numbers and first-aid, as well as a meeting place for the family, evacuation routes, and the family's insurance plans.

State and local officials are also emphasizing the need for each family to have an emergency-preparedness kit. GEMA recommends the kit include a wide variety of items, such as three gallons of water, a three-day supply of food, a flashlight with extra batteries, a battery-powered weather radio, a first-aid kit, a whistle, local maps, and blankets.

"By preparing for one emergency, you are actually arming yourself against many types of disasters," said GEMA Director English. "Our goal is for all residents to be their own first responders and to be able to help others in the event of a natural or man-made disaster."

For more information about emergency preparedness, call Clayton County Fire and Emergency Services at (770) 478-8271, or log onto www.readyclayton.com. People can also go online, to GEMA's web site, www.gema.ga.gov, or to GEMA's Ready Georgia web site, www.ready.ga.gov/.