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9-09 FloodsYou’ve probably heard “Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it,” and “You don’t know where you’re going if you don’t know where you’ve been.” In most aspects in life, the best way to improve a situation is to evaluate past events in order to know how to properly handle them in the future.

With that in mind, we’re taking a look back at Georgia’s recent experience with floods. As part of Flood Safety Preparedness Week, we want to refresh your memory about just how destructive floods can be. In fact, they are one of the most common and widespread of all natural disasters, and they are the second most common weather-related killer in Georgia.

Where We’ve Been: Georgia’s Recent Flooding History

Since 2008, Georgia has experienced four flooding events that have resulted in a Federal Major Disaster Declaration. In addition to these disastrous events, Georgians are no strangers to various types of flooding occurrences. Floods in Georgia can be caused by a variety of weather and related phenomena, including thunderstorms, low pressure systems, tornadoes and more. Types of flooding which can occur due to these weather conditions can range from river flooding, to urban flooding, to flash flooding, and they can develop quickly or over a longer period of time.

In the spring of 2009, Georgia residents in 23 counties were impacted by a month-long series of severe storms that brought substantial rainfall and caused widespread flooding.  Damage was costly with damage to public infrastructure alone reaching approximately $60 million.

Later that year Georgia experienced another bout of severe flooding, this time caused by continuous rain that fell faster than the local watersheds could handle. Some areas of the state received almost half their average annual rainfall in only 24 hours, and metro Atlanta recorded 3.7 inches of rain in one 14-hour period – more than double the previous record for daily rainfall. The result was flooding of historic proportions with some rivers reaching levels that are expected only once every 500 years. What has become known as the Epic Floods of September 2009 resulted in the death of 10 people and an estimated $250 million in damage.

The severe storms that spawn tornadoes can also lead to floods. In 2011, the National Weather Service ranked April as the most active tornado month on record with 750 tornadoes across the country which resulted in 361 deaths. In addition to tornadoes, the storms also consisted of straight-line winds and significant flooding. Because of the April 2011 disasters, the damages totaled almost $15 million in federal assistance was approved for individuals and business owners, as well as local, county and state governments in the 25 Georgia counties that were declared a major disaster.

More recently, during 2014, there were 40 reports of flash flooding that occurred throughout the state which in total caused $523,000 in damage.

Where We’re Going: How to Prepare for Floods

Since we know their capacity for destruction, it is important to prepare for potential floods.  Learn about your area’s flood risk by contacting your local emergency management agency or planning and zoning department, or visiting www.floodsmart.gov for more information.

Once you know your area’s risk, compile a Ready kit of emergency supplies for the home and a portable version in case you have to evacuate. If you were to encounter a flood while on the road, remember to “turn around, don’t drown.” More than half of flood victims are in vehicles swept away by moving water, so you should never drive through standing water. It only takes one foot of water to float a vehicle and two feet of water to sweep it away.

Being prepared and knowing how to react are essential, but since floods can develop quickly with little warning,  it is also important to have a reliable source on hand, such as a NOAA Weather Radio or the Ready Georgia mobile app, to keep you informed.

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This guest post is from Sandra Wingard, program manager and camp manager/director of Girl Scouts of Historic Georgia, Inc.

GS_HISTORICgeorgia_servicemarkWhen many people think of Girl Scouts during the month of March, their minds instantly go to our famous Girl Scout Cookies. While these cookies are a strong identifier of the Girl Scout organization, so is our motto, “be prepared.”

On March 12, 1912, Juliette Gordon Low officially registered the organization’s first 18 girl-member group in Savannah, Georgia, marking this year the Girl Scout’s 103rd anniversary. To this day, preparedness is still a key component throughout the Girl Scout organization. As camp director for Camp Okitayakani and Camp Concharty, which are part of Girl Scouts of Historic Georgia, we maintain a strong focus on teaching girls to take preventative steps that will help keep them safe.

As staff members of the Girl Scout programs and camps, we know it is our responsibility to set an example for the girls by having plans in place to help us handle possible emergencies. Prior to the campers’ arrival, all staff members are required to participate in emergency focused training and safety drills to ensure everyone knows the proper safety procedures to use in the event of an emergency. These include evacuation and shelter plans. We also make sure all electronics, such as NOAA Weather Radios and communication tools, are in working order so we can all stay informed and connected during any potential crisis.

Once the campers arrive, we prepare the girls by teaching them how to react in the event of a wide variety of disaster scenarios. They learn how to render first aid assistance, how to reconnect when separated from friends and family, what to do for heat exhaustion and more.

How to be prepared

Unfortunately, it’s impossible to prevent every emergency or disaster, but proper planning makes us better equipped to handle them if they occur. One of the greatest safety measures we take is encouraging the girls to use the buddy system. We also teach the girls how to reconnect with their fellow campers if they find themselves separated from the group.

We make sure the girls understand the importance of having preparedness items such as whistles and first aid kits on them when engaged in high adventure activities. During the summer, we also make sure the girls know the importance of staying hydrated and how to stay safe during extreme heat. We train the staff and the girls on how to identify someone who may have heat exhaustion and how to react properly.

How to react

From dealing with extreme heat to being caught outside during a severe thunderstorm, the key is to remain calm. We teach Girl Scouts to avoid panicking during emergency situations so they can calmly put their training into action.

For example, an 8 year-old Brownie Girl Scout, who had recently completed a first aid class, found herself in an emergency situation when her troop leader fell down steps and broke her elbow and sustained various cuts and bruises. The Brownie remained calm, called 911 and provided as much aid as she could until first responders arrived.  She is being considered for a Safety Award which the Girl Scout Guide Book says is given “to a Girl Scout who has shown presence of mind and true Girl Scout Spirit in an emergency.”

In addition to the emergency preparedness lessons our council teaches at our camps, Girl Scouts of the USA has created an Emergency Preparedness Patch to equip Girl Scouts with skills to protect their families, friends and communities when disaster strikes. During the 103rd anniversary of Girl Scouting, we encourage everyone to take a lesson from the Girl Scout Handbook which states, “a Girl Scout is ready to help out wherever she is needed. Willingness to serve is not enough; you must know how to do the job well, even in an emergency.”

To learn more about our camp opportunities in Georgia, visit our camps’ page.

 

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rosesAre you prepared for Valentine’s Day? If you waited until the last minute and don’t have a plan in place, you might have found yourself in an ‘emergency’ situation.

We understand that when trying to select the perfect Valentine’s Day present, it can be difficult to choose an item that shows you truly care. Flowers and chocolates are cliché – so why not consider giving that special someone the gift of emergency preparedness? Sure, it’s unorthodox, but nothing says “I love you” like life-saving emergency preparedness materials.

Don’t know where to start? Here are a few ideas from Ready Georgia:

  • Water over wine:  It is important to stay hydrated in the event of an emergency, so buy your sweetheart a few gallons of bottled water to put in his or her Ready kit. Remember that each person in a household should have one gallon of water per day, for at least three days, for drinking and hygiene.
  • Non-perishable food over chocolates:  While chocolates are sweet, they don’t provide great nutrition during an emergency. Make sure your loved one has at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food on hand.
  • Cell phone power pack over “mixtape”:  Although a mixtape or playlist of special songs that connect you to your significant other can be a heartfelt gift, that won’t help you actually stay in touch if the power goes out. Consider giving your loved one a cell phone power pack so you can stay connected to each other in the event of an emergency.

Gifters, please be advised that while flowers and chocolates may be categorized as “cliché,” they still would be a nice complement to any of these emergency preparedness item gift suggestions.

 

 

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Mike Morrison, FOX 31 chief meteorologist

Prior to Severe Weather Preparedness Week, we had the opportunity to catch up with Mike Morrison, chief meteorologist for FOX 31 WXFL-TV in Albany, Ga. Mike shared with us some unique items he keeps in his Ready kit, the most severe weather event he’s seen come through Georgia, the difference between a thunderstorm warning and thunderstorm watch, and more.

During severe weather, you’re often on the air sharing important information with your viewers. Have you ever not been able to get to the studio due to a storm?

When severe weather strikes I am likely already in the studio and on the air, if necessary, giving important information about the situation to our viewers. The FOX 31 weather team determines the potential for severe weather days in advance, if possible.  Forty-eight hours before an event, we implement a plan that includes pre-event, event and post-event actions.  The team will coordinate with local emergency managers, officials and even the National Weather Service to make sure all of our bases are covered in case of a severe weather event. Storms have never hindered me or the weather team from being in place for a severe event.

How often are you asked about the difference between a thunderstorm warning and a thunderstorm watch? What’s the easiest way to explain it?

As a broadcast meteorologist, much of my time is spent educating the public on such terminology.

A thunderstorm watch means that conditions are good for the development of severe thunderstorms, which may produce large hail, damaging winds and even tornadoes during an upcoming time period. During a thunderstorm watch, you should be aware of quickly changing conditions, have a plan in place and be prepared to take action if severe weather hits. At this time, everyone should consider postponing outdoor activities and notify friends and family. People should also always have a way to get frequent weather updates. NOAA Weather radios, local radio stations and television stations do a good job of keeping people informed before a storm.

A thunderstorm warning is a call to action and means one or more of the following threats are occurring or imminent: Large hail (1” or greater), damaging winds (58 mph or greater), and tornadoes. During a thunderstorm warning, everyone should seek shelter in a sturdy structure or building. If you live in a mobile home, you should immediately seek shelter in a sturdier building. A basement is the ideal place to take shelter, but if there is no basement, you should find a windowless closet, bathroom or inside hallway.

What is the most lethal thunderstorm that you’ve seen come though Georgia? What do you remember the most about it?

There have been a few events that come to mind, but the squall line that pushed through the Albany area April 4-5, 2011, really stands out. We experienced strong straight-line winds that toppled trees and even tossed buildings. I remember driving around after that storm being amazed at the size of trees that were destroyed.

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What are a few of the most important actions people can take in order to prepare for a tornado?

I would recommend purchasing a NOAA Weather radio to stay informed about tornado watches and warnings in your area. It is also important to have more than one way to receive warnings and to know how your local warning system works. Additionally, knowing the safest place for your family to take shelter during a tornado is extremely important. I would urge everyone to also perform tornado drills in their home and office, as well as have Ready kit in your home and car.

What are some unique items that you include in your Ready kit?

  1. I have a helmet for myself and my wife in case of flying debris.
  2. A cat carrier to keep our pets nearby.
  3. Supply of chocolate that I regularly replenish in order to keep it fresh.
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Ready Georgia backwardHave you ever solved a puzzle by starting at the end and then worked your way to the beginning? By beginning a task with having the end results in mind, you can be sure that you are taking all of the necessary steps while having a clear understanding of what you are trying to accomplish. January 31 is National Backward Day and it is a great opportunity to take this problem solving tactic and apply it to your emergency preparedness efforts.

  1. Envision the outcome:  In the state of Georgia, residents can find themselves in a variety of unfavorable emergency situations ranging from crippling freezes and ice storms to earthquakes and tornados. Research each of these weather threats to find out what they could entail. This will help you create a mental picture of what you and your family may encounter.
  2. Create a plan: Now that you’ve envisioned the worst, make a plan to stay safe in the face of it. If a tornado were you occur, do you know where you and your family would seek shelter? What if you had to evacuate your home, do you know where to go? Develop a strategy on what you and your family would need to do if you found yourselves in all emergency situations. Remember, your plan for one emergency could vary greatly from another. Be sure to communicate these plans to your family and make sure everyone has a clear understanding of their roles in the plans.
  3. Distinguish “needs” versus “wants”: If you were to find yourself in an emergency situation, what items are vital for you to have?  Every person is unique which means their disaster preparedness items in their Ready kits would be as well. Think about the items you and your family would need in order to safely weather any kind of emergency, then store them in a safe area.

While we may not be able to fully predict the future nor the weather, we are fully capable of taking proactive measures to ensure that we are as prepared as possible if a disaster were to occur. By taking time to envision each disaster, creating a plan that caters to each and making sure that you have all of the proper items in your Ready kit, you can ensure that you and your family are prepared.

 

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2015_vuurwerk_900_450_90_s_c1_smart_scaleBenjamin Franklin might have been on to something. Through countless writings, including his autobiography, Franklin believed strongly in the core philosophy of improving oneself one step at a time. That same philosophy can apply to being prepared for an emergency.

While preparing for a disaster can sometimes seem overwhelming, Do 1 Thing, a non-profit organization that wants to help build stronger communities, has taken Franklin’s approach by urging people to prepare for emergencies one month at a time.

By simply doing one thing each month, by the time a year has passed, you will have taken big steps toward being ready for the unexpected. Below is Do 1 Thing’s list of 12 month-by-month easy and affordable suggestions — as well as recommendations from Ready Georgia — that you can take to ensure your family is prepared for the unknown.

January—Make a Plan: Disasters can happen. Devise a plan and make sure everyone knows what to do in case of an emergency. This is also a great time to start preparing your Ready kit.

February—Water: During a disaster, municipal and private drinking water sources may become contaminated. Having at least one gallon per person per day, for at least three days, for drinking and hygiene is essential.

March—Shelter: If a disaster strikes and you’re no longer able to stay in your home, do you know where you’ll go? Download the Ready Georgia mobile app so you can quickly find the nearest shelter to where you live.

April—Food: The key to good food storage is to plan ahead of time. Make sure you have at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food available.

May—Work & School: Disasters can happen anywhere and at any time so it’s important to have an understanding of what the emergency procedures are at your workplace. Also, learn the notification procedures at your child’s school and make sure your emergency contact information is up to date.

June—Family Needs: Does your child or loved one need a specific type of medication? Make a list of special items you’ll need in case of an emergency.

July—Family Communications Plan: Have multiple ways to contact your loved ones in an emergency, such as email, social media or texting. It may be easier to call someone out of state than to call across town, so be sure to identify a friend or relative that family members can contact to let them know they are safe. Keep in mind that you might not have access to your phone or computer during an emergency.

August—Get Involved: It takes more than just police and firefighters to respond during an emergency. Promote emergency preparedness in your community, or become a volunteer trained to help in emergency situations.

September—Be Informed: Do you have a NOAA weather radio with tone alert? Getting the correct information during an emergency is of paramount importance.

October—Power: Be sure to have a flashlight and a safe alternative heating source if the power goes out, and know how to keep food safe. Make sure you have an emergency charging option for your cell phone, such as a portable charger.

November—Emergency Supplies: These are the items that you’ll want to have in your Ready kit such as a flashlight, NOAA weather radio and food. Be sure to have a kit in your home and car.

December—First Aid Kit: Antibacterial wipes, band aids, gauze pads, aspirin and a space blanket are just some of the items you’ll want to include in your Ready Kit.

As you can see, building an emergency plan is not as difficult as you might have imagined. If you’re ready to do one thing each month, simply sign up on Do 1 Thing’s website. To help keep you on track, Do 1 Thing will send you an email reminder of each month’s topic and help you keep track of your progress. What a great way to kick of the New Year.

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You know Dasher, and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen… but do you know how to prepare for winter weather? Georgia students who participated in Ready Georgia’s Winter Weather Jingle Contest certainly do, and they proved it with their creative video entries.

For the first time, Ready Georgia asked students in third through fifth grades from across the state to share their knowledge of winter weather preparedness by creating a two-minute preparedness-themed jingle for the holidays. Entries ranged from entirely original and classic-themed jingles, to interactive and animated performances from teachers and students.

Karen Jones’ class from Mashburn Elementary took the top prize in the statewide competition for their video, “Plan, Be Prepared and Stay Informed,” sung to the tune of “Walking in a Winter Wonderland.”

In their video, the students provided information on why it is important to plan, be prepared and stay informed. A few key takeaways include:

  • Shelter in place during storms
  • Store a three-day supply of food and water
  • Download the Ready Georgia app
  • Make sure your Ready kit has flashlights and extra batteries

For being selected as the winning jingle, they will win a free pizza party from Domino’s.

A full list of finalists, along with links to their videos, can be found below:

Congratulations to all of our finalists! Follow their advice and make sure you’re ready for whatever winter has in store for us.

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Photo of Chesley McNeil, 11Alive Meteorologist

Chesley McNeil, 11 Alive meteorologist

This guest post from 11Alive Meteorologist Chesley McNeil kicks off Winter Weather Preparedness Week and offers a few tips to make sure that you are winter ready.

It’s that time of year, when the leaves begin falling from trees, days are shorter, and temperatures drop. We are getting closer to winter and the time to prepare is now.

In the South, when meteorologists mention winter weather preparedness or winter weather safety, most folks will instantly think of “the white stuff.” But there is much more to winter than just snow. In fact, the Atlanta metro area only receives an average of two inches per year.

As bad as that can be, we are more susceptible to extreme cold and ice! Yes, ice storms are the most crippling when it comes to winter weather. Ice is heavy, weighing down trees, roofs and power lines. It’s hard to drive or even walk on ice, and depending on the temperatures, it can hang around.

According to the National Weather Service (NWS), cold weather is one of the leading causes of death in the United States. So, how do we prepare ourselves? Well, I’m sure you have heard these tips in the past, perhaps every year before the winter season, but they are tried and true methods that can save you and your families’ lives when Old Man Winter is at his worst.

Pay attention to the forecast:
Last year, meteorologists used terms like “Polar Vortex.”  The polar vortex is a large pocket of very cold air, typically the coldest air in the Northern Hemisphere, which sits over the polar region. Occasionally, this pocket of air can get dislodged farther south than normal, leading to cold outbreaks in Canada and the U.S. If you keep an eye on the weather, you will often get a heads up on what conditions are expected over the next 36 to 48 hours or possibly even further out.

Here are a few terms to be familiar with:

  • Frost/Freeze Warning:  Expect below-freezing temperatures.
  • Winter Weather Watch:  A significant winter weather event (i.e. heavy snow, heavy sleet, significant freezing rain) or combination of events is expected, but not imminent, for the watch area, watches provide 12 to 36 hour notice of the possibility of severe winter weather. This is the time to prepare.
  • Winter Weather Advisory: Expect winter weather conditions (e.g. accumulation of snow, freezing rain and sleet) that could cause severe inconvenience. Such an advisory is issued up to 36 hours before an event that has an 80 percent or greater chance of winter precipitation.
  • Winter Weather Warning:  A significant winter storm or hazardous winter weather is, imminent, or likely, and is a threat to life and property. These warnings are typically issued up to 36 hours before an event that has an 80 percent or greater chance of winter precipitation. This is the time to put your winter safety plan into action.

For more information, visit the National Weather Service website.

Have a plan:

You should have a plan in place because your family may not be together when a winter storm strikes.  Have a plan of how you will reach out to one another. Designate a place where everyone in the family knows to meet. Plans should include the work place, daycare and school.

Replace or check the items in your Ready kit:

Winter storms often cause power outages. Battery-powered items are essential.  Make sure to keep extra batteries for flashlights, TVs, radios, etc. Replace blankets and towels and any expired medications. You should also have a good supply of drinking water, canned food and baby formula.

Check the dates on these items as well and replace as needed.

For a complete list of tips, check out Ready.GA.gov.

Remember, even though winter doesn’t officially begin until December 21, the season in North Georgia runs from November through March and the coldest months are December, January and February.  Now is the time to get prepared.

Chesley McNeil is a meteorologist for 11Alive. He also greets viewers every weekday as the host of his own morning show, “Wake Up With Chesley.”

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Pop quiz: what are the first three items that disappear from grocery store shelves when snow is in the forecast? Answer: Milk, bread and eggs.

Theories abound as to why these three perishable items top the pre-storm shopping list, but one thing is for sure – I f you’ve got those three items you’ve got the building blocks for French toast. And doesn’t French toast make everyone feel better, especially when it’s cold outside?

This Friday, November 28th is National French Toast Day. In homage to this important observance, Ready Georgia encourages you to pick up a few other essentials when you make your run to the store for milk, bread and eggs. Because even though there’s nothing wrong with getting these foods, there are actually more important items to have during an emergency.

Each of the following items is available at nearly every grocery store, and won’t add much to your bill.

  • A flashlight and extra batteries. Winter ice and snow can lead to power outages, so this is an especially important season to make sure that you have additional sources of light.
  • Bottled water. If you’re unfortunate enough to experience frozen or burst water pipes this winter, you’ll have to shut off your water supply to your entire house while waiting for repairs. Having extra water on hand makes that difficult situation a little easier to handle. It’s true, after all – you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone! Having bottled water on hand means you can continue to wash hands, brush teeth, and (of course) drink.
  • Nonperishable, ready-to-eat food.  A family of four that is stuck at home for a day or two can go through a lot of food. That French toast will only go so far, especially if your refrigerator loses power. Keep your crew happy by having plenty of shelf-stable, ready-to-eat foods on hand. Check out our earlier blog post about feeding yourself after a disaster for more tips.
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If you or someone you love is one of the 29 million Americans with diabetes, it’s important to be aware of the unique challenges that diabetics face during emergency situations. November is American Diabetes Month, a good time to review your emergency preparedness plans and make sure you’re ready to face potential challenges and protect your health, even in difficult circumstances.

Challenge #1: No Power = No Refrigeration. Drug manufacturers recommend that insulin be stored in a refrigerator between 36 and 46 F. In the wake of an ice storm or other severe weather event, you may lose power for an extended period of time. So how should you store insulin? According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, insulin products may be left unrefrigerated (between 59 and 86 F) for up to 28 days. The key is to keep insulin as cool as possible, storing it away from direct heat and out of direct sunlight. Also, be sure to check with your pharmacist for additional information about appropriate storage for your specific medications.

Challenge #2: Erratic mealtimes can cause changes in blood sugar. Emergency situations upend our lives, not to mention our mealtime routines. For diabetics, a delayed meal can become a serious situation, wreaking havoc on blood sugar levels. Face this challenge head on by stocking a three-day supply of healthful food and water. During an emergency, do your best to eat on time and never skip a meal. If you cannot eat solid food because you are sick, sip regular (not diet) soft drinks or eat hard candies or fruit. Do not let yourself get dehydrated.

Challenge #3: Diabetes management requires specialized supplies. In addition to the list of standard Ready kit items, it’s critical to stock supplies needed to manage diabetes in the days following an emergency. You should keep an extra bottle of each type of insulin that you use on hand at all times and put a copy of your emergency information and list of medicines in your Ready kit, along with:
• A meter to measure blood sugar and extra strips
• Blood sugar diary
• Insulin pump supplies (if on insulin pump) and extra batteries
• Urine ketone testing strips
• Lancing device and lancets
• Glucagon Emergency Kit (if on insulin)
• Empty hard plastic detergent bottle with cap to dispose used lancets

Managing risk is nothing new to people who live with diabetes. Take time this month to apply those skills to your emergency preparedness, ensuring that you’re ready for whatever emergency situation you may face.

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