Severe Weather Preparedness: Warnings

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Meridian, Miss. Severe weather comes in all shapes, sizes, and severity. Keeping up with what has changed and what is threatening right now can be almost a full- time job.

Far too many people rely on tornado sirens for their tornado warnings and this can be both dangerous and deadly as siren are meant to warn those caught outside.

So how can you stay safe and informed during the storm? Your local school might have the answer.

"The central office in each school has a weather alert radio that goes off in the event that severe weather is in the area," said Elizabeth McDonald, of Meridian Public School District public relations. "We also monitor the weather and stay in close contact with LEMA (Lauderdale Emergency Management Agency) and they keep us informed on any possible threats as well."

NOAA weather radios are the most reliable way to inform you of danger. They are battery operated and give off a loud alert when danger is near. They are still very reliable even when most lines of communication have been lost.

"We do have hand-held radios that can be used most of the time but the administrators and the principals in the schools know what to do on their own," said McDonald. "They are trained and prepared in the event they can't get direction from us; they have the abilities and the tools to handle the situations themselves."

April 27th changed things in a lot of way. Power was out. Radio towers went down and chaos reigned in the twin states. That day showed the method of warning can still improve, and it was improved while the tornadoes were still going on.

Social media became the primary method of getting warnings that day after every other method failed. So which method is best? All of them.

There are numerous methods to receive weather watches, warnings and advisories. Examples include:

· NOAA Weather Radio: Watches and Warnings issued by NWS air on these radios.

· Television Stations: Local or national news stations monitor and broadcast weather alerts.

· AM/FM Radio: Radio stations are required to air Emergency Alert System messages.

· Smartphone Applications: Numerous to choose from, and user can specify areas for alerts.

· Text Message Alerts: Some television stations use text message alerts for specific areas.

· Alert FM Receiver: Similar to a NOAA Weather Radio, but relays the message from FM Stations.

· Social Media: MEMA partners with the NWS to post severe weather alerts on Twitter using the hashtag #MSWX. The NWS constantly updates Facebook and Twitter with weather graphics, alerts and information about imminent severe weather.

The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency says it's
important to have a way to receive severe weather warnings after you have gone to bed. Most weather related injuries and deaths occur at night when people are sleeping. A NOAA weather radio, Alert FM receiver or smartphone app, which sounds an audible alert, will wake you when a warning is issued for your area so you can take the appropriate action.

Numerous free and paid smartphone applications have been created, notifying the public of severe weather. Some of these applications use the GPS tracking on your phone and will notify you of severe weather warnings based upon your location.

It is also important to share the weather alerts that you receive within your community. Neighbors may not have a way to receive weather alerts, so by sharing what you know, it could save a life.

To increase your chances of surviving and dealing with the aftermath of a disaster, every family should have one or more methods for receiving severe weather alerts. This will also help with knowing when to activate your family or community preparedness plan.