Posts from — April 2011

Tornado Season 2011 Is Upon Us: Planning, Preparedness and Immediate Protective Action

As evidenced by the multiple tornadoes that struck the St. Louis area this past weekend, the 2011 tornado season is upon us! Rapidly moving violent storms can cause tornadoes with little, if any, warning. It is very important to always maintain a level of situational awareness when at home, work and on travel. Extreme weather conditions this time of the year can be deadly, so be alert to local news broadcasts and have your NOAA Weather Radio with Specific Area Message Encoder technology (SAME) at the ready, so you’ll know when to take protective cover.

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Tornado Watch

A Tornado Watch essentially means that conditions are favorable for tornadoes to develop. In this case you should be alert to changes in the weather and take precautions to protect yourself, family, and your property. Particular attention should be made when attending outdoor events, traveling and partaking in recreational activities. When a Tornado Watch has been declared by the National Weather Service, you should at least take the following precautions.

  • Move vehicles inside a garage or carport for protection and/or rapid accessibility. Keep your car keys and house keys with you.
  • Move lawn furniture and yard equipment such as lawnmowers inside if time permits. If you have a pool, you can throw lawn furniture into the water so it does not become a “flying projectile hazard”.
  • Account for family members at home, work, day care or school.
  • Have your emergency kit ready.
  • Keep your radio, local television and, especially your NOAA Weather Radio, tuned into the weather reports for your area.

Tornado Warning

A Tornado Warning means that a tornado has actually been sighted. If you are fortunate, some communities may sound a tornado siren warning of the approaching tornado. Tornadoes can be violent, deadly and devastating storms, with wind speeds of up to 260 miles per hour. If a Tornado Warning is issued for your area, seek protective shelter immediately! There is little time for closing windows or looking for flashlights. It’s a good idea to know where things are and to have an emergency preparedness system already staged and ready to go.

Tornado Preparedness

  • Know the warning signals used in your community. If a siren sounds, that means stay inside and take cover. Many communities like ours here in Greene County Virginia, have a computerized telephone notification that automatically calls home and cell phones with emergency alerts.
  • Have an actionable emergency plan.
  • Put together an emergency sustainment system including a NOAA Weather Radio, flashlight, spare batteries, first-aid medical supplies, water and food items in a rugged waterproof container.
  • Make a complete detailed video/photographic and written inventory of your household and personal possessions for insurance purposes.
  • Conduct tornado drills in your office and a home with your family. Make sure each employee and/or family member knows the correct procedures if they are at work or school when a tornado hits. This includes the location of the storm safe room.

During the Tornado

The safest place to be during a tornado is underground. This includes the basement, cellar or underground storm shelter. In any case you want something strong and safe above your head. If there’s no basement or cellar in your home, a small room in the middle of the house — like a bathroom or a closet — is best. The more walls between you and the outside, the better.

Stay away from windows, as broken glass shards become deadly airborne projectiles in high winds.  Never take time to open windows.  There is a myth which claims opening windows can reduce damage to a home.  Not true!  First things to go during a tornado are those windows which are immediately converted to flying shrapnel!

Mobile Homes

  • Residents in mobile homes (even those with tie-downs) should seek safe shelter elsewhere at the first sign of severe weather.  Hurricane straps or mobile home tie-downs do not protect against the severe winds and flying debris associated with tornadoes.
  • Evacuate to a community storm shelter or make arrangements with friends or relatives ahead of time to their house when the weather gets ugly.
  • If you live in a mobile home park, talk to management about the availability and location of a nearby shelter.  Often times such parks will have recreational or laundry facilities which can be used for shelter in case of tornadoes.
  • As a last resort, seek shelter by laying flat in a ditch or culvert with your hands over your head and neck to offer some protection against flying debris. However, do be alert for flash floods that often accompany such storms.

Driving in a Vehicle During a Tornado

  • Just two days ago, the tornado that ripped through Lambert-St. Louis  International Airport lifted a 128,000 lb. (empty weight) Boeing 757 full of passengers into the air and relocated the aircraft 20 feet distant from where it was originally parked.  Just think what a tornado can do to the family sedan!  Tornadoes toss cars and large trucks around like toys. Never try to outrun a tornado.  Even if the tornado doesn’t directly impact your vehicle, the strong winds associated with any such storm can easily flip a vehicle of just about any size.
  • If you see a funnel cloud or hear a tornado warning issued on the radio or by siren, get out of your vehicle and seek a safe structure.  In the worst case scenario, lie down in a ditch, culvert or other low area with your hands covering the back of your head and neck for protection.  Just remember to keep alert for flash floods!
  • Do not seek shelter under an overpass or bridge.  These might seem like safe havens during a tornado, but, in fact, are just the opposite.


  • All public schools are required to have a reliable method for monitoring for severe weather – including tornadoes.  They are also required to have emergency evacuation plans with designated personnel to facilitate such plans.  Educate yourself!  Make sure you know what those plans are for whatever school facility in which you may be.
  • If a specific shelter area does not exist, move into interior hallways or small rooms on the building’s lowest level. Avoid areas with glass and wide, free-span roofs such as gymnasiums and auditoriums.
  • If you can’t get into a basement or designated shelter, move to the center of the lowest level of the building, away from windows, lie flat, and cover the back of your head and neck for protection with your hands.

Office Buildings, Stores, Shopping Malls or Airports

  • First, seek the designated shelter area.
  • If you can’t reach the shelter, take refuge in an interior hallway on a low floor.  A closet or bathroom may also provide you some protection against flying debris or collapsing structures. Deaths in large buildings are often attributed to the collapse of wide-span roofs or walls.
  • Stay away from large, open rooms and windows. Never seek shelter in cars in the parking lot.

This is a safety list that can certainly be improved upon, so do your research and stay safe during storm season!




April 25, 2011   2 Comments

Does Your Local Government Have a Functional Emergency Public Health Plan?

CDC Issues Guidance for State and Local Planning

This weekend vicious storms and tornados rolled across 6 states in the midwest and south killing at least 43 persons, putting local, county and state government agencies and thousands of First Responders into action. If you are a follower of the ICE PACK blog we are ardent and vocal advocates of personal responsibility and resiliency. While we feel it is imparitive to urge, cajole, encourage and sometimes seemingly demand that citizens prepare themselves to deal with emergencies and disasters, we perhaps have not written enough about the responsibilites of local government and their critical role in disaster preparedness and response.

Public Health Preparedness Capabilities

As we know (all too well) last week the Congress and Senate narrowly averted a shutdown of our national government due to the inability to agree on the 2011 budget. Now it’s difficult for any of us to fully understand this issue as nearly every American must manage personal and/or family finances each day. It’s also difficult to get a grip on the fact that “if” they had not come to an agreement the federal government would have been essentially shut down. The sad reality here is that the Congress and the Senate would still have been paid, but courageous American war fighters serving our nation throughout the world, engaged in three wars, would go without pay. Anyway you look at this situation, something is not quite right. Yet, I digress…

However, please recognize that there is substantial concern that future 2011/2012 US budget cuts may well impact our nations ability to plan, equip and respond to communities around our nation who may fall prey to a natural, man-made or terrorism related disaster. Emergency preparedness and disaster response must be factored into the national security of our great nation throughout every level of government.

Make it a point to attend your next local town, city or tribal council meeting and ask “your” elected officials “Are We Prepared?” When was the last time the Board of Supervisors or City Council directed the Emergency Manager to conduct an internal and/or independent review of the local Emergency Plan to ensure that it is up-to-date, applicable and makes good fiscal sense? Has your local community “exercised” its disaster plan… ever? Hopefully, your local government did not put its fate in the hands of someone that simply did a “cut and paste” job on a document that will never survive its first contact with disaster!

Towards making things better in our country, the Center for Disease Control recently issued a planning tool that should be brought to the attention of every City/Town Council Member and County Supervisor in support of creating a better and more resilient Public Health program. You will find links to the entire Public Health Preparedness Capabilities: National Standards for State and Local Planning document and each individual section in this blog post.  Take action now and help your local community to become more resilient.




April 18, 2011   No Comments

Portable Power Generators: Care, Use and Feeding for Emergencies

As we approach the annual storm season here in the United States, the specter of losing electrical utility service due to extreme weather conditions becomes all too real. In an emergency, portable electric generators offer lifesaving benefits when power outages affect your home or business. They can safely power important electrical equipment such as refrigerators, and lighting, and also heating and cooling equipment. There are also dedicated standby power generators that are quite a bit more expensive, but provide automatic operations with greater power capability. While typical portable power generators use some type of fossil fuel, solar power generators are quite viable and becoming more popular. We have had really good success working with solar powered generators manufactured by Sunrnr of Virginia, who can be reached at 540-271-3403.

However, portable generator use can also be very hazardous when done improperly. If your home or business emergency plan includes using an emergency power generator, it’s essential that you take precautions for your safety and the safety of utility workers trying to restore power. The most effective way to avoid portable generator mishaps is to make sure you fully understand how to properly operate the equipment, which also includes using common sense (saying this forces one to contemplate “if common sense were common, everyone would have some).

Safe Portable Generator Use

  1. Select a portable generator that will provide electrical power for the most critical appliances you’ll need during an emergency. These may include, buy are certainly not limited to: lights, furnace, power tools, portable heater, well water pump, fans, air conditioner, refrigerator/freezer, security system, television, computer, radio, etc.
  2. Select a type of fuel for the generator (e.g. diesel, natural gas (NG), liquid propane (LP), or gasoline) that is readily available, and can be safely stored in the quantity needed. Rural residents may find diesel easy to come by; suburban residents may have ready availability of liquid propane from gas grills; whereas urbanites may find gasoline and natural gas plentiful. Remember, the rules of supply and demand are particularly brutal during an emergency.
  3. Know how to use your generator before you have to use it under emergency conditions. Always read and follow the generator manufacturer’s operating instructions before running the generator. Maintain your generator according to the manufacturer’s maintenance schedule for peak performance and safety.
  4. Engines emit carbon monoxide which is a potentially lethal gas. Never use a generator inside your home, garage, crawl space, or other enclosed living or work area. Fatal fumes can build up, that neither a fan nor open doors and windows can provide enough fresh air to clear.
  5. Only use generators outdoors, away from open windows, vents, or doors. When operating keep the portable generator away from combustible materials, fuel and liquids.
  6. All fuels (diesel, propane, natural gas and gasoline) and their vapors are extremely flammable and explosive. Allow the generator engine to cool at least 2 minutes before refueling and always use fresh fuel. If you do not plan to use the generator in 30 days and you are using gasoline, don’t forget to stabilize the gas with fuel stabilizer.
  7. Only store fuels in safe, approved containers in secure locations away from living areas.
  8. Use a battery-powered carbon monoxide detector in the area where the generator will be operating.
  9. When using electrical extension cords, be sure they are heavy duty (e.g. 10/3ga or larger wire), properly grounded, and are rated for the application. Thicker copper wire conducts electricity more efficiently. Coiled cords plugged into electricity can get extremely hot.  Always uncoil cords and lay them in flat, open locations. Duct tape can be used to secure cords and position them so as not to be a trip hazard.
  10. Never plug the generator directly into your electrical circuit outlets. If you are connecting a generator into your home electrical system, have a qualified electrician install a Power Transfer Switch.
  11. Generators produce powerful electrical voltage.  Never operate generators under wet conditions and take all necessary precautions to prevent electrical shock. Take precautions to protect the generator from exposure to rain and snow.
  12. Do not store or stage emergency power generators and fuel where they can become flooded and rendered inoperable. A flood damaged generator, portable or stand-by, is worthless during a disaster!
  13. Don’t forget to secure your power generator and fuel from theft!


April 11, 2011   3 Comments