Preparation saves lives

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Editorial: May 29, 2013

ISSUE: Tornado season readiness
You can never be too prepared

The storms that ravaged the Midwest are a stark reminder of what happened in southern Indiana last year and periodically have ripped apart buildings and shattered lives here in Hardin, LaRue and Meade counties.

The lives lost in Oklahoma remind us of how quickly things can change. The best we can do is be prepared for the worse.

The objective of today’s editorial is not to create panic or cause emotional concern, rather it is to urge everyone to take the steps necessary to prepare for the next big storm. One thing for sure, there will be one at some point in our future.

From April until the end of June, Kentucky is vulnerable to damaging tornadoes like those that ripped apart Monroe, Okla., and Henryville, Ind. The structural damage comes from violent winds and flying debris slamming into buildings. In some cases, these winds can reach up to 300 mph which will devastate complete communities in mere minutes as Joplin, Mo., can attest.

Here are some things you can do to help minimize the impact that a twister could have on you and your family. Hold on to these tips and put emergency planning on the top of your list of priorities.

  1. Prep your family by creating a list with contact information, insurance information and in case of emergency out-of-town contacts.
  2. Make copies of birth certificates, insurance information and Social Security cards to bring with you if you need to evacuate. Know who will be in charge of having these forms if evacuation is necessary
  3. Make sure everyone in the family knows where to go, what to take and how to be safe if a tornado hits.
  4. Make sure everyone in the family knows how to get in contact with everyone else. Make a list of numbers and contact information for everyone. Keep it with the copies of your important documents.
  5. Build an emergency kit with enough food, water and medical supplies to last 72 hours. Make sure daily or required medicines are in this kit and that all of the items are kept current and usable.
  6. A means of communication or information such as a portable radio, cellphone or satellite phone also is  important. Any first aid supplies, clothes and toiletries that you may need should be stored along with flashlights, batteries, etc.

Storms don't always strike at convenient times or when you have adequate time to find shelter. These ideas found at www.ky.gov were compiled by Roger Edwards at the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla.

In a house with a basement: Avoid windows. Get in the basement and under some kind of sturdy protection (heavy table or work bench), or cover yourself with a mattress or sleeping bag. Know where very heavy objects rest on the floor above (pianos, refrigerators, waterbeds) and do not go under them.

In a house with no basement or an apartment:  Avoid windows. Go to the lowest floor, small center room (like a bathroom or closet), under a stairwell, or in an interior hallway with no windows. Crouch as low as possible to the floor, facing down; and cover your head with your hands. A bathtub may offer a shell of partial protection. Even in an interior room, you should cover yourself with some sort of thick padding (mattress, blankets, etc.), to protect against falling debris in case the roof and ceiling fail.

In an office building, hospital, nursing home or skyscraper: Go directly to an enclosed, windowless area in the center of the building -- away from glass. Then, crouch down and cover your head. Interior stairwells are usually good places to take shelter, and if not crowded, allow you to get to a lower level quickly. Stay off the elevators; you could be trapped in them if the power is lost.

In a mobile home: Get out. Even if your home is tied down, you are probably safer outside, even if the only alternative is to seek shelter out in the open. If your community has a tornado shelter, go there fast. If there is a sturdy permanent building within easy running distance, seek shelter there. Otherwise, lie flat on low ground away from your home, protecting your head. If possible, use open ground away from trees and cars, which can be blown onto you.

At school: Follow the storm drill plans. Go to the interior hall or room in an orderly way as you are told. Crouch low, head down and protect the back of your head with your arms. Stay away from windows and large open rooms like gyms and auditoriums.

In a car or truck: Vehicles are extremely dangerous in a tornado. If the tornado is visible, far away, and the traffic is light, you may be able to drive out of its path by moving at right angles to the tornado. Otherwise, park the car as quickly and safely as possible - out of the traffic lanes. Get out and seek shelter in a sturdy building. If in the open country, run to low ground away from any cars (which may roll over on you). Lie flat and face down, protecting the back of your head with your arms. Avoid seeking shelter under bridges, which can create deadly traffic hazards while offering little protection against flying debris.

In the open outdoors: If possible, seek shelter in a sturdy building. If not, lie flat and face down on low ground, protecting the back of your head with your arms. Get as far away from trees and cars as you can; they may be blown onto you in a tornado.

In a shopping mall or large store: Do not panic. Move as quickly as possible to an interior bathroom, storage room or other small-enclosed area, away from windows.

In a church or theater: Do not panic. If possible, move quickly but orderly to an interior bathroom or hallway, away from windows. Crouch face down and protect your head with your arms. If there is no time to do that, get under the seats or pews, protecting your head with your arms or hands.

The season is upon us, we ask that you not take risks that could endanger you or your family members. Review this information with everyone in a family meeting, make assignments and run a couple of test drills just to make sure your plan can be executed with safety and timeliness.

This editorial represents a consensus of The News-Enterprise's editorial board.