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April 13, 2012

News

Fort McCoy to test emergency warning sirens April 19

Fort McCoy will participate in a mock statewide tornado watch/drill Thursday, April 19 as part of Tornado and Severe Weather Awareness Week activities/events April 16-20 for the peak Tornado season April to August.

Tornado safety at home, work, or play

• In a home or building, avoid windows. Move to a basement and get under a sturdy table or the stairs. A specially-constructed “safe room” within a building offers the best protection. Use an Internet search engine and search for “safe room” for more information.
• If a basement is not available, move to a small interior room or hallway on the lowest floor and cover yourself with anything close at hand: towels, blankets, pillows. If possible, get under a sturdy table, desk or counter. Put as many walls as possible between you and the storm.
• If caught outdoors, seek shelter in a sturdy building. If a shelter isn’t available nearby, get into a vehicle, buckle seatbelts and drive to the closest sturdy shelter. If flying debris occurs while driving, pull over and park. Now there are two options as a last resort:
 — Stay in the vehicle with the seatbelt on and place your head below the windows.
 — If it’s possible to safely get noticeably lower than the roadway, exit the vehicle and lie in that area, covering your head with your hands. Do not seek shelter under an overpass.
• Mobile homes, even if tied down, offer little protection from tornadoes. Evacuate mobile homes and go to the designated storm shelter or the lowest floor of a sturdy nearby building.
• At school, follow the drill. Go to the interior hall or room. 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.

Quentin Graham, Emergency Management specialist for the Fort McCoy Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security, said the drill will begin at 1 p.m. April 19. Tornado warning sirens will be tested about 1:45 p.m.

In the event of actual severe weather, the tornado drill will be postponed until Friday, April 20 at the same time.

Television viewers, radio station and emergency radio listeners will hear a message indicating that “this is a test.” The drill will be a true, end-to-end test that interrupts broadcast radio, television, cable stations and provides tone-alerting over the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) Weather Radios, or Emergency Weather Radios.

“This is a historic first in Wisconsin as the tornado warning will last about one minute across the whole state and Minnesota at the same time and be broadcast on radio and television stations,” Graham said. “Fort McCoy also will test its emergency weather warning system at the same time (about 1:45 p.m.), which is a good time for Fort McCoy organizations to practice and review their emergency plans.”

On May 22, 2011, one of the deadliest tornados in U.S. history struck Joplin, Mo., directly killing 159 people and injuring more than 1,000 despite tornado warnings. The massive Enhanced Fujita Scale-5 tornado had winds exceeding 200 mph. On the same day, tornados struck and caused damage in La Crosse, Sparta and Tomah.

A National Weather Service study on the Joplin tornado revealed important lessons learned:
A majority of residents did not immediately seek shelter when tornado warnings were issued.

People needed between two and nine risk signals to take action and seek shelter. For example, if they heard the sirens going off they would look in the sky, then go to a TV to get information and then call a friend, etc.

The time it took between the warning and the search for confirmation of risk cost lives.

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