Bartow Emergency Management Agency Director Johnny Payne said that in honor of Severe Weather Awareness Week, which has been declared by Gov. Nathan Deal for the week of Feb. 6-10, the alerts will be activated so that citizens can practice their plans and be better prepared when a real emergency strikes.
"People should always have a plan," Payne said. "There's information on our website that can help people make a plan and be safe."
Each day of Severe Weather Awareness Week will be celebrated uniquely to express the differences between reactions to various disasters. Today marks the importance of family preparedness and weather radios.
"Stock up on non-perishables like canned goods and always have a weather radio," Payne said. "Get a can opener that's not electric."
According to Deal's news release, good items to have in an emergency ready kit include: at least three gallons of water per person in the household for three days to be used for drinking and sanitation, at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food, battery powered or hand crank weather radio, flashlight and extra batteries, first aid kit, a whistle to signal for help, face masks to help filter contaminated air, plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter in place, moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for sanitation, wrench or pliers to turn off utilities, local maps, blankets and warm clothes.
Tuesday will be set aside for thunderstorm safety awareness. Watching the sky and looking for darkening skies, flashes of lightning and increasing wind can help warn of any severe activity. According to the Bartow EMA website, if residents can hear thunder, they are close enough to the storm to be struck by lightning and should find a safe shelter immediately.
EMA warns of avoiding metal pipes and telephone lines that conduct electricity and unplugging appliances. Other means of avoiding harm include waiting to take a bath, shower or running water and turning off the air conditioner as power surges can overload the compressor. Drawing blinds and shades over windows can offer protection if the windows break from high winds.
Similar to thunderstorm safety, preparing for a tornado is an important step to take as well. To help citizens prepare for the terrible storm, the National Weather Service will issue a drill on Wednesday with sirens blaring through every county.
During tornadoes, the EMA recommends having a safe place for the family to take cover when a tornado is said to be heading for the area. If a home does not have a basement, a center hallway, bathroom or uncluttered closet can be good places to hide.
Like thunderstorms, watching the local weather radar can help in determining how close a storm is to the resident's home. When alerts sound, it is important to know that a tornado watch means that conditions are favorable for a tornado to form. A warning means that a tornado has been spotted in the area and shelter should be sought immediately. Watches and warnings are issued by county.
If a watch is declared, a tornado may still form without a warning. Watching weather conditions closely and looking for blowing debris or the sound of a freight train -- the sound a tornado reportedly makes -- are signs that residents should take cover.
Also coinciding with thunderstorm and tornado preparedness, Thursday will be dedicated to lightning safety. The Bartow EMA warns against being near trees, poles or metal objects when lightning flashes. Squatting low to the ground if a citizen is caught outside during a storm can make them a smaller target. However, laying flat on the ground covers more surface, thus making the person a larger target for strikes.
If someone is struck by lightning, call 911 immediately. The victim carries no electrical charge, so it is safe to handle them for first aid treatment, but the person has received an electrical shock and may be burned in the area where they were struck and where the electricity left their body.
Wrapping up the week, knowledge of flood safety is encouraged as most heavy storms also bring heavy rains and flooding. According to the EMA, being aware of flood zones throughout the area and having flood insurance can be helpful. Also, a flood can take several hours or days to develop, but a flash flood can occur within minutes. As with tornadoes, a flood watch means there is a possibility for heavy rains to overload lakes, rivers and creeks while a warning means that flooding is already occurring or will happen soon.
To be safe during a flood, as with all storms, the EMA recommends keeping at least a half a tank of gas in the family vehicle in case an evacuation is issued and keep important documents or valuables in a water and fire proof box. Even if flooding has begun without a warning, the EMA suggests evacuating the area as an extra precaution and not to drive around barricades. If a car stalls in swiftly rising waters, the EMA says to abandon it and climb to higher ground.
In an effort to alert Georgians to severe weather faster, the Georgia Emergency Management Agency has developed an application for smart phones called Ready Georgia. The title reflects a statewide campaign for emergency preparedness and the application offers safety tips and emergency plans.
Further information on the application and campaign can be found at www.ready.ga.gov. Also, more information and tips can be found at the Bartow EMA website at www.bartowga.org.