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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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officeReady or not, winter is almost here, serving as a reminder to businesses about the importance of having a continuity plan that effectively ensures your operations remain resilient regardless of the damaging effects of inclement weather.

Unlike our Northern state counterparts, Georgia’s propensity for snow and ice varies widely from year to year. However, spending some time to review the steps necessary to prepare can prove essential and valuable. Business continuity plans should cover a number of contingencies, such as preparing for the lack of access to your most critical resources: staff, facilities and technology.

Securing Your Most Valuable Resource – Your People

If a winter weather event occurs during business hours, management can take actions that demonstrate concern and goodwill on behalf of the business to its employees.

Safety is the first important factor, especially in terms of when employees should be allowed to leave work during a storm or other inclement weather. Unfortunately, there is no magic formula for determining dismissal needs, but you should consider a combination of factors: What time is the storm anticipated to reach our area? Where is staff commuting from and what’s the best time to dismiss them to ensure a safe arrival?

It’s vital to stay informed about weather alerts. A NOAA weather radio is a great tool for detailed weather updates, and the Ready Georgia mobile app offers weather alerts via your smartphone. Also, connecting with your local emergency management agency can provide insight into preparations and responses.

For staff who are required to “shelter in place,” it’s important to validate that your on-site emergency preparation kits contain enough supplies for three days. Basic supplies should include: water; non-perishable food items; flashlights; batteries; blankets; air mattresses; baby wipes, prescription medication, etc.

I’d also recommend establishing a call-tree account to help determine your staff’s location and safety. Some companies provide one-touch emergency communications systems that can immediately notify large numbers of employees and receive feedback of their status. If emergency communications systems are not an option, text messaging is another effective means of reaching your team.

Lack of Access to Facilities

Questions to consider when having limited or no access to your business premises:

  • Can your business function if you are unable to access the office for a number of days?
  • Can work be rerouted to an alternative/partner site not impacted by the weather?
  • Are employees equipped to work remotely?
  • What if the power goes down at their homes?
  • Does critical staff have a Wi-Fi hotspot or cellular wireless cards?
  • Does staff have extra batteries for laptops?
  • Is there a need to notify customers/clients of anticipated service interruption?
  • What means are in place to communicate with employees?
  • How long can your business operate remotely before infrastructural failures (power, landline telephone service, etc.) harm the overall business health?
  • Does the building have security guarding the premises?

Lack of Access to Technology

Technology is the foundation upon which many disaster recovery plans are built. The functioning of most large corporate, mid-sized or small business operations depends on the viability of technical systems. A single piece of malfunctioning equipment can impede operations within an organization. Some remedies to impaired technology can be either cloud-based and/or managed via co-location or other redundant systems.

Co-location data centers offer an alternative to setting up your own disaster recovery (DR) service. These types of facilities allow data centers to house an organization’s networks, servers and storage. Should co-location be an option, be sure to determine if the site fits specific business needs such as capacity, access, transmission speeds, service level agreements and other operational factors. Businesses should also consider the resiliency of the local and regional power-grid and choose a colocated site in a region separate of its headquarters.

Analyzing Your Plan

Conducting an enterprise-wide continuity needs and impact analysis helps a business prioritize recovery resources and strategies as it develops its business continuity plan. The plan should tie together all aspects of a resilience strategy, and it should be reviewed annually and updated as needed. The key to successfully surviving inclement weather is planning and thorough preparation.

Ready Georgia’s Ready Your Business Guide provides a straightforward, 12-point program for business continuity planning. Take action now to make sure that your business is prepared for whatever this winter may have in store.

Tamika McLester is the Business Continuity & Education Compliance Manager at Crawford & Company.

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ShakeOut_Global_JoinUs_300x250On Valentine’s Day this year, the earth decided to shake things up a bit. At 10:23 p.m., a 4.1 magnitude earthquake with an epicenter near Edgefield, S.C. shook homes across Georgia, and tremors were felt as far away as south metro Atlanta. The tremors didn’t stop there. Two days later, an aftershock occurred with a magnitude of 3.2.

Although they are somewhat rare in Georgia, history shows that earthquakes are capable of causing significant damage and shouldn’t be quickly categorized as harmless. On August 31, 1886, the great Charleston, South Carolina earthquake caused severe shaking that extended well into the state of Georgia. Once the shock waves reached Savannah, people had difficulty standing, walls cracked, windows broke and buildings were damaged beyond repair. Ultimately, the event caused one casualty and multiple injuries.

Whether you are on vacation, at work, at school or anywhere else, earthquakes can happen at any time with no warning. Instead of allowing you or your family to be shaken up by one of these quakes, consider participating in this year’s Great SouthEast ShakeOut!

Originally organized in California in 2008, the first ShakeOut drill was an effort by scientists and emergency managers to inform the public about earthquake preparedness. Due to its popularity, the ShakeOut drill had a worldwide ripple effect that led to the creation of local and regional drills across the country and around the globe with millions of participants each year.

In Georgia, we are part of the Great SouthEast ShakeOut which is held on the third Thursday of October each year. On October 16 at 10:16 a.m., thousands of participants across the state will practice how to properly “Drop, Cover and Hold On.” The drill also encourages you, your community, your school or your organization to review and update emergency preparedness plans and supplies in order to prevent damage and injuries.

People of all ages are welcomed to register for this year’s Great SouthEast ShakeOut event. Participation is easy – just drop, cover and hold on wherever you are at 10:16 on 10/16.

For more tips on what to do before and after an earthquake, visit the get ready for earthquakes page.

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senior-coupleAs we enter the second half of National Preparedness Month, I hope that you’ve taken at least one action to make you and your loved ones more prepared emergencies. Making an emergency plan, being informed about your risks and building an emergency supply kit are critical to keeping yourself safe when disaster strikes.

If you find yourself in the small group of people who count themselves as fully prepared, I’ve got another important message for you. Preparedness isn’t a “fix it and forget it” activity. Life circumstances change, and it’s important that you revisit your emergency plans to make sure that they keep pace with those changes.

I was reminded of that lesson myself earlier this year. As you might expect, I’ve gone to great lengths to make sure that my family is prepared. When the weather is at its worst, my staff and I are at GEMA headquarters coordinating emergency response across the state. That means my family has to be ready for severe weather, equipped with supplies and the knowledge that they need to protect themselves.

My emergency plan was made at a time when my parents were completely self-sufficient, and it assumed that they would be able to take care of the last-minute preparations for a winter storm. Unfortunately, both of my parents have had changes in their health, and they are no longer as mobile as they used to be. Last February, with significant ice accumulations in the forecast and a high likelihood of power outages, my parents realized they needed to bring in additional firewood but they were not able to do it themselves.

I am immensely grateful that my parents’ neighbors were there to help, and I’m glad to say that everything turned out well in the end. But I’ve asked myself many times since then – what if the neighbors hadn’t been there? What if my parents had needed medicine or food? The situation could have been much more serious.

I share this story in hopes that it will be a helpful reminder to you, just as it was to me, that it’s critical to revisit your emergency plans from time to time.

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praise_logo_grnIn the wake of a disaster, helping hands are always needed. Hands that pick up the pieces after a tornado tears through a town. Hands to help find shelter for individuals and families whose homes have been destroyed. Hands that bring hope in the form of much-needed food, water and supplies.

These helping hands often belong to members of the faith-based community who feel called to provide assistance and emergency support. The Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA) stands with these houses of worship and has created the new Praise & Preparedness program to provide tools and resources to help them get ready before a disaster strikes.

Earlier this year, we completed our Praise & Preparedness pilot program with a house of worship in Bartow County that had been affected by a tornado in January 2013. Since completing the pilot program, I have spent the last seven months introducing Praise & Preparedness to other houses of worship across the state. I have been pleased with the response our program has received, and I’ve been even more pleased to hear many faith leaders express their concern about making sure that their congregants are prepared.

Praise & Preparedness makes it easy for faith-based organizations to prepare. Our website has a template to assist in creating a plan that addresses operations, communications and other key aspects of emergency planning. Our online toolkit also offers a variety of resources to help organizations share information that promotes emergency preparedness among its members. The end goal is to make sure that a faith-based community is prepared at both the individual and congregational level so that everyone is in stronger position to help in the wake of an emergency.

Houses of worship are a place of refuge and an ideal location to start recovery and healing. Now they can also be places that are prepared to handle emergency situations when they arise.

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xs and osFor many Americans, it is one of the most wonderful times of the year: football season. Coaches like the Atlanta Falcons’ Mike Smith and University of Georgia’s Mark Richt have spent the past year laying the foundation for successful seasons, investing countless hours to get their teams ready for the obstacles they will encounter.

As you’re counting down to your team’s first kickoff of the season, tackle your emergency preparedness to-do list using some of the same tactics your favorite coaches employ.

  • Gear Up: A coach wouldn’t let a football player be caught on the field without the proper equipment, and you and your family shouldn’t face an emergency without the proper supplies either. Be sure you have everything on your emergency checklist stocked up before a disaster strikes, including enough food and water to last you and for family for up to 72 hours. Also purchase a NOAA weather radio and download the free Ready Georgia mobile app to receive vital emergency alerts.
  • Research Your Opponent: The best way to beat an opponent is to know its capabilities and strengths. Take time before a disaster and do some research to know what you could be up against.
  • Practice: The old saying “practice makes perfect” is true in most aspects in life, but especially in disaster preparedness. Prior to a disaster, create a plan and practice it with your family to make sure all members of your team are ready.

Now that you know the basic Xs and Os of preparing for disasters, do you think you’re ready? Share your game plan with your friends and family to make sure you all will be successful if and when disaster strikes.

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Pay it Back

old hands2“When you’re older, you’ll understand.” “Use your inside voice.” “If you keep making that face, it will freeze that way.” The growing up years are filled with admonishments, rules and parenthood clichés designed to keep kids out of trouble and bring a measure of peace and quiet to a household.

Now it’s time for your inner child to return the favor. August 21 is National Senior Citizen’s Day and the perfect opportunity for you to take some of the phrases and life lessons your elders have given you, and pay it back to prepare them for emergencies.

  • “Don’t run in the house!”  Running around and grabbing items in the midst of an emergency is not ideal for anyone, especially seniors. Help the older adults in your life create a Ready kit of basic supplies that will allow them to survive on their own for at least 72 hours following a disaster. Remember that their needs are different from yours, and that their kit should include additional items such as extra eyeglasses, extra medications, hearing aids and hearing aid batteries, wheelchair batteries, oxygen, etc.
  • “Pay attention!” Encourage seniors to regularly check the weather forecast in their area and react accordingly. For example, this week’s temperatures are expected to rise over 100 degrees across Georgia with heat index values that will approach 110 degrees. During this extreme heat, it is important to drink plenty of water and stay indoors as much as possible. It’s also important for older Georgians to have multiple means of receiving emergency alerts in the event of sudden, severe weather. Purchase a battery-powered NOAA weather radio and add an adaptive device if your parents would benefit from visual or other sensory alerts. Seniors are also becoming more technologically savvy, so if your parent has a smart phone, encourage them to download the Ready Georgia app to receive alerts of bad weather in their area.
  •  “Don’t make me come in there…” Your parents shouldn’t rely solely on you if a disaster were to strike. Use Ready Georgia’s family communications plan template, working with your parents to make sure that they have several people who can assist them in case of an emergency. When helping them develop their plan, locate the safest place in their home to seek shelter and determine how they would evacuate if the need arose. Make sure they have information on how to meet their medical or prescription needs in the event of their necessary resources become limited or unavailable.
  • “Someday you’ll thank me for this.” Don’t be surprised if your parents fuss a bit and try to insist that they can take care of themselves. Gently explain that helping them is helping you, giving you peace of mind that they’re ready for whatever disasters may come their way.
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