Huntsville and Walker County residents are no strangers to severe weather, and in an effort to make sure all elements of a safety plan are in place this year, the community will take part in a region-wide tornado drill Wednesday.

The Houston/Galveston National Weather Service office will issue a mock tornado drill at 10 a.m. Wednesday for all 23 counties in the region. The warning will go through standard communication methods, including the Emergency Alert System and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Weather Radio.

“All the schools in the city will participate in the drill,” said John Waldo, the city’s emergency management coordinator. “We did the same thing last year and it worked out fairly well.”

The 15-minute drill is not only designed for school children, but government agencies, businesses and other interested parties are also given an opportunity to practice their emergency operation plans for tornadoes.

Both the city and county recently proclaimed Feb. 26 through March 4 Severe Weather Awareness Week and are supporting efforts to get as much information to the public as possible.

NOAA weather radios are available at Radio Shack and similar retail outlets for those who would like to tune in to the drill.

As part of an overall plan, residents should take note of strong shelter availability near their homes, offices, schools and wherever they might get caught during a tornado.

Identifying a contact person in another part of the state or nation to let others know family members are safe, and keeping in mind a place for family members to meet if a neighborhood or home is destroyed are important elements in any plan.

“After the drill is over, I’ll fill out an evaluation form and tell (the National Weather Service) how it went,” Waldo said. “I think the whole thing is a really good idea, and we will be more prepared if something does happen here.”

For a NOAA Severe Weather Awareness booklet in a downloadable PDF format, log onto www.srh.noaa.gov/hgx/severeweatherawareness.



Tornado safety guidelines

A tornado watch is issued when severe weather is expected along with large or multiple tornadoes. A tornado warning means take action because a tornado is on the ground. A warning usually covers one county or a portion of a county and usually lasts about an hour.

• Seek shelter immediately. Get low and stay low.

• Go to an interior room or hallway on the lowest floor of a home or public building.

• Leave a mobile home and take shelter in a nearby building. If no building is sufficient nearby, lay flat in a ditch or ravine.

• Never stay inside a car. Never try to outrun a tornado. Take shelter in a nearby building. If no building is sufficient nearby, lay flat in a ditch or ravine.

• At school, follow plans and go to a designated shelter area. Avoid auditoriums, gyms and areas with a wide, free-span floor.

• Avoid areas near exterior glass or doors, areas along exterior walls or rooms with wide-expanse roofs, such as auditoriums and gyms.

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