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back-to-school111941_compressedAs summer is quickly winding down, parents, teachers and students are making checklists and rounding up all of their necessary items for going back-to-school. But back-to-school preparation should involve more than just new clothes, textbooks and classroom supplies. Now is also the perfect time to update Ready kits, discuss emergency preparedness with children and add school emergency information to family communications plans.

Here are our top three tips to get you ready for the new school year:

  • When shopping for school supplies, pick up items for your Ready kit as well. Use the supply checklist on the Ready Georgia mobile app to keep track of which items you need to stock.
  • Mark your calendar for a family evacuation drill. It’s easy to put off this important emergency preparedness step indefinitely, but setting a reminder on your phone or putting it on the family calendar will help make sure you get it done.
  • Your family may not be together when a disaster strikes, so it’s important to make a plan to reconnect. Fill out an emergency contact card and put it in your child’s backpack. The family communications plan template on the Ready Georgia website includes wallet cards you can use for this purpose.

In addition to these tips, the Ready Georgia’s free online toolkit includes many kid-friendly resources that make it easy to prepare. Lesson plans about possible disasters, a recommended reading list and emergency preparedness videos are available for use in school classrooms, at home, or by any organization or agency that works with elementary school-aged children. The Ready Georgia website and mobile app also offer customizable emergency supply checklists and family communication plan templates. For more information, visit www.ready.ga.gov.

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The cliché that “there’s no substitute for experience” often proves true. Whether it’s at work or in life, sometimes there’s just no way to know how to handle something until you’ve been through it.

In the past year, Georgians have been through a lot. According to a new survey conducted by Ready Georgia, twice as many residents had recent experiences with large-scale emergencies than in the previous year, ranging from winter storms to tornadoes to floods.

However, the survey also revealed that people who went through those emergencies took actions to get more prepared for the next time. Most of them stocked emergency supplies, and many devised an emergency plan.

In other words, actually experiencing an emergency shifted many Georgians’ frame of reference and left many realizing they may not be as prepared as they thought they were. It makes sense. I may not realize how useful a backup phone charger or a battery-powered radio is until I’m stuck at home without power. If that outage lasts for a few days, I will realize how important it is to stock up on non-perishable food.

What about how to connect with family members if mobile phone networks are busy? Knowing in advance that text messages are more likely to get through can save valuable battery life instead of trying phone call after phone call. And if you can’t get in touch with someone at all, having a family meeting place arranged in advance is crucial.

Unfortunately, many of us don’t realize the importance of these simple actions until it’s too late. It’s the result of another cliché: “I never thought it would happen to me.” Here’s a sample of the percentages of Georgians who have stocked different types of recommended supplies:

2014-Emergency-Supplies-infographic

Whether or not you’ve experienced an emergency recently, I’d encourage you to get prepared. Think about where you would go if you had to evacuate due to a hurricane. Think about how you would get in touch with your loved ones if you were separated. Think about what you would need if you had to make it three days without electricity.

Ready Georgia has tools to help make it easy. Create a Ready profile to get a customized supplies list and plan. Download our newly improved mobile app to access that info at any time and get emergency alerts. We also have information specific to pets, older residents and those with functional needs.

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Atlanta_Lightning_StrikeWelcome to the first week of summer! Saturday marked the official start to a season full of outdoor festivities. You may know all the facts about summer fun, but are you up to speed on summer’s severe weather? Georgia summers are notorious for a variety of severe weather, but two of its biggest threats are extreme heat and lightning. Consider these striking facts:

Striking Fact #1: Heat is the #1 weather-related killer in the U.S. Tornadoes and hurricanes often get the headlines, but excessive heat is a formidable foe that claims more lives each year than floods, tornadoes and hurricanes combined. Stay informed about ways to remain safe when the temperature rises.

Striking Fact #2: The temperature inside a vehicle can rise 20 degrees in as little as 10 minutes and 50 degrees in an hour- even when outside air temperatures are in the 70s. Thirteen children have died this year from heat stroke after being left in a car, including an Atlanta toddler who was left in a car for more than seven hours one day last week. Check out the National Weather Service’s “Beat the Heat, Check the Back Seat” campaign for more information about keeping kids safe this summer. Never leave children or pets alone in closed vehicles.

Striking Fact #3: Lightning kills an average of 51 people and severely injures hundreds more each year in the U.S. Lightning is a deadly by-product of thunderstorms, occurring mostly during the warmer months of June through September. It’s also Lightning Safety Awareness Week, the perfect time to brush up on the 30-30 rule and other tips for staying safe.

For more tips and facts about summer’s severe weather, download the Ready Georgia mobile app or visit our website.

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Home screenAt the Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA), we have been hard at work on an improved version of the Ready Georgia mobile app for several months, and we are glad to announce that it is now available on iTunes and Google Play. The app, which originally launched in 2011, has been very successful at helping Georgia residents get prepared for emergencies, so much so that it has become a model for dozens of other states.

For the latest version of the app, our goal was to not only help users prepare before emergencies, but to give them better resources during emergencies as well. With that in mind, we made several significant improvements:

 

Before Emergencies: Improved Alerts

Alerts screenThe Ready Georgia app’s primary goal is to help Georgians get prepared before disasters strike, and it does this by providing features like a customizable emergency plan and supplies checklist, information about how to prepare for different types of disasters, and weather alerts.

In the latest version of the app, the alerts have received a significant upgrade. Geo-targeted severe weather alerts from the National Weather Service will now automatically notify your phone if there is a watch or a warning in your area. In addition, GEMA and the Department of Public Health now have the ability to send custom messages to individual counties if there is important information that needs to be delivered. This feature will only be used to communicate essential information, but it’s a useful tool to stay informed.

 

During Emergencies: Real-time Traffic & Shelter Information

Traffic Map screenWith the focus of the Ready Georgia app expanding to become a resource during emergencies, one of the key new features is the real-time traffic information. The app now has a live traffic map with icons of traffic incident locations, as well as a list of recent traffic incidents and relevant news and updates, such as current construction. These features will help Georgians stay more informed about current road conditions and how to avoid gridlocked areas.

Another feature that has been improved is the Open Shelters map, which displays the locations of nearby shelters and provides directions on how to find them. Previously, this map only displayed the locations of Red Cross shelters, but GEMA now has the ability to add other types of shelters to the map, such as approved “good Samaritan” locations that may open on an impromptu basis. This will enable users to find a safe place to go during and after emergencies.

The new Ready Georgia app is a valuable tool, and we encourage everyone with an iPhone or Android smartphone to download it. Remember, there is no all-in-one solution to staying safe. It’s important to stay weather-aware and keep up with what’s going on in your area. It’s also crucial to get ready in advance by making a plan and creating a Ready kit with crucial supplies.

As we head into hurricane season, we hope you take some time to get prepared so you can enjoy a safe summer.

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Ready kit-CMYKSummer is here and a lot of people are preparing for a variety of outdoor activities and vacations like beach trips, boating on the lake, mountain hiking and more.  Whatever getaway or summer fun you’re doing, you’re going to have to plan on packing the right items to get ready for your trip, whether it’s a swimsuit, hiking boots or sunscreen. While you can fully prepare for summer fun, you can’t always fully predict summer weather.

This Sunday, June 1, is the start of hurricane season. Although hurricanes pose the strongest threat to coastal regions, storms that form in the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico have the potential to bring storm surge, high winds, tornadoes and inland flooding across Georgia. During the summer, Georgia is also notorious for having extreme heat conditions.

While heading to the store to pick up any necessary items for your planned summer activities, consider grabbing some items that could benefit you in the event of a disaster. It is a good rule of thumb to do one thing today that your future self will thank you for.

Getting prepared before an emergency is not as hard as you might think. First, create a Ready kit checklist consisting of all supplies you may need in the event of a disaster.  The Ready Georgia App also allows you to easily access a supplies checklist on your smartphone.

Some items you may want to include on your checklist:

  • Water. One gallon per person per day, for at least 3 days, for drinking and hygiene
  • Food. At least a 3-day supply of non-perishable food
  • Can opener. For food, if kit contains canned food
  • Radio. Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • First aid kit

If you need some advice on additional items, visit the Ready Checklist page for some helpful suggestions.  Be sure to keep in mind the needs of children, people with disabilities, pets and seniors as well.

Once you have your Ready Kit checklist prepared, search your house for items you may already have, mark them off of your list and place them in an area that is easily accessible during an emergency. Then prioritize the remaining items on your list by the importance of each item. Once you have your list ready, make it a point to grab at least one item from you checklist every time you make a shopping run. If you follow this tactic, you will have your Ready kit fully stocked in no time!

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Fun activities are a great way to educate kids about potentially scary topics like natural disasters. That’s why Ready Georgia offers a variety of tools to help parents and teachers talk to children about the steps they can take to prepare for emergencies.

LEGO kids

Thanks to the FIRST LEGO League (FLL), this year children ages 9 to 14 had another fun way to learn about emergency preparedness and dive into the exciting world of science and technology. Through the League, student teams participated in regional, state and national competitions building innovative solutions to real-life problems through LEGO robotics. The 2013-14 theme for the competition was “Nature’s Fury,” challenging students to master natural disasters. Participants explored the effects of tornadoes, earthquakes and other disasters, identifying where these events can occur and formulating a way to prepare, stay safe or rebuild.

Ready Georgia recently spoke with Steven Nelson, science and operations officer of the National Weather Service and coach of a participating team in First LEGO League regional and super regionals competitions. Read on for Nelson’s experience in the League.

RG: When did you first get involved with the FIRST LEGO League?

In August 2013, I volunteered to coach a team in the League consisting of 4th and 5th grade students from Kedron Elementary in Peachtree City. At this point in my life, I had not committed to something like this but decided to venture into the unknown. We were the not only first team to participate in the robotics competition from our school, but for all elementary schools in Fayette County as well.

RG:  Can you tell us what the competition entailed?

Each annual challenge revolves around a real-world, scientific problem. This year’s challenge was “Nature’s Fury.” Each team defines a problem related to a natural disaster, such as how to keep people safe during a storm, and uses STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) principles to research a solution to that problem. The most unique aspect of the challenge is the design and programming an autonomous robot, built from a special kit comprised entirely of LEGO pieces, motors and sensors to score as many points as possible on a themed playing field for 2 minutes and 30 seconds.  It was a lot of fun, not just for the kids, but for me as well!

RG: What was your team’s name?

Our team name for the completion was the “Kedron Purple Princesses” and it consisted of 10 very motivated 5th grade girls. And before you ask, no, I did not wear a tiara.

RG: What did the “Kedron Purple Princesses” choose as their project for the challenge and what did they do to prepare for it?

In preparation for the competition, the team met after school three times a week for three months prior to the first competition. The girls researched natural disasters, came up with multiple project ideas, then built and tested robots. They ultimately decided to tackle the problem of keeping people safe during blizzards and named their robot “Frostbiter.”

During the team’s research, the students interviewed Georgia Emergency Management Agency’s public affairs officer, Lisa Janak Newman, on how to stay safe in blizzards.  For instance, she informed us that most residents of Georgia do not have a safety kit in their vehicles to be better prepared for winter storms.

RG: Can you provide us with a first-hand view of what your team experienced during the competitions?

In November, we traveled to Columbus State University for our first regional competition. The robot competition was a blast and everyone enjoyed watching the other teams compete. Judges also asked the teams to make a short presentation on the FLL core values, the technical aspects of the robot and programming and a project presentation in which they show their problem and solution. The team won a trophy in the programming category.  When all the points were added, we placed high enough at the regional level to qualify for the super regional competition in January.  While we did not place high enough to advance to the state competition, the girls walked away with the grand prize: a better appreciation and understanding of natural disasters and the knowledge that with hard work, fairness and cooperation, any challenge can be overcome.

RG: Do you have any advice to share with other teams that may participate in future competitions?

Definitely get involved. Let the kids experiment and make mistakes. Encourage discussion of why things work and don’t work.  While being recognized for doing well and succeeding at competitions is great, the kids need to be encouraged at all stages of the effort, and above all, let them have fun!

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The tornado that struck parts of central and southern U.S. on Sunday, killing at least 17 people, serves as an unfortunate reminder that disasters can occur with little warning. With severe weather expected through Wednesday in Georgia we encourage everyone to prepare now for these potentially disastrous storms.

Remember, tornadoes are nature’s most violent storms. They can appear without warning and be invisible until dust and debris are picked up or a funnel cloud appears. Planning and practicing specifically how and where you take shelter is a matter of survival. Here are some tips, as well as an infographic, to help you prepare and plan for any future tornadoes.

Stay Informed:

• Contact your local emergency management agency to learn your community’s warning system.
• Familiarize yourself with the terms used to identify tornado hazards – a tornado WATCH means a tornado is possible in your area. A tornado WARNING means a tornado has been sighted and may be headed for your area, so you need to find shelter immediately.
• Monitor NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio, television and the Internet to stay informed of severe weather conditions.
• Make sure you have a way to receive alerts if you are at home, at work or on the go. Wireless Emergency Alerts are being sent directly to newer cell phones by authorized government alerting authorities. If you own a smartphone, download a weather service app to receive notifications of storms and hazardous conditions in the area. The Ready Georgia mobile app is free and offers up-to-the-minute, geo-located weather and hazard alerts, as well as customizable emergency preparedness checklists.

Prepare:

• Compile a Ready kit of emergency supplies – such as water, non-perishable food, flashlight and extra batteries and a first aid kit – in case you lose electricity or have to evacuate. Keep a copy of your insurance information and vital records, such as birth certificates, in the Ready kit. Don’t forget to factor in the unique needs of family members, such as supplies for pets, seniors, children or individuals with disabilities or an access and functional need.
• Determine in advance where you will take shelter in case of a tornado, preferably in a basement or a storm cellar. Keep blankets or a mattress here to protect against falling debris.
• Charge your cell phone in case you lose power.

Plan:

tornado infographic

• If local authorities issue a tornado warning – or if you see a funnel cloud or tornado – take shelter immediately.
• Storm cellars or basements provide the best protection. If possible, climb under something sturdy, like a heavy table or work bench, and cover yourself with blankets or a mattress.
• If underground shelter is not available, go into an interior room or hallway on the lowest floor possible. Crouch as low as possible to the floor, facing down and cover your head with your hands. A bathtub may offer some protection, but cover up with thick padding – like a mattress or blankets – to protect against falling debris, if time allows. A helmet can offer some protection against head injury.
• In a high-rise building, go to a small interior room or hallway on the lowest floor possible. Go to the center of the room and avoid windows, doors and outside walls.
• Interior stairwells are usually good places to take shelter. Stay off the elevators, as you could be trapped if power is lost.
• A vehicle, trailer or mobile home does not provide good protection. Get out immediately and head for safety, preferably in a basement or sturdy building. If shelter is not available, lie flat in a ditch or other low-lying area and use your arms to protect your head. Do not get under an overpass or bridge – you are safer in a low, flat location.

To learn how to prepare for emergencies, create communications plans and more, visit ready.ga.gov.

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Its April Fool’s Day and one culprit guilty of playing tricks on people is Mother Nature. She is notorious for surprising Georgians throughout the year with unexpected severe weather, ranging from flash floods to snowstorms. Instead of being funny, these surprises are often dangerous and emphasize the need to be prepared in advance, regardless of what we think is going to happen.

One way Mother Nature tends to throw Georgia residents off track is by providing abnormal temperatures during different seasons. According to the National Weather Service, the highest recorded January temperature in Georgia was a balmy 79 degrees on Jan. 11, 1949, while  June 1, 1889, clocked in a mere 39 degrees. The latest time in the year for a freeze occurrence documented in Georgia history is April 25, 1910, when temperatures dropped as low as 31 degrees.  With the unreasonably warm temperatures, ice storms and tornadoes of recent months, it is apparent that Mother Nature began her pranks early in 2014.

Here are a few other times in Georgia history when Mother Nature pulled a fast one on us:

pic 1The Boomerang Hurricane:  On Oct. 15, 1947, citizens of Savannah were hit with an unexpected whirlwind known as the Cape Sable Hurricane. It originated as a weak tropical cyclone that developed into a hurricane. After hitting Cuba and Florida, the storm appeared to be heading out to the Atlantic when it suddenly turned back west and hit unsuspecting Savannah residents. Winds reaching 95 miles per hour felled trees, peeled roofs off of houses and smashed windows and billboards throughout the city. The bizarre path was caused by a high pressure center that built north of the storm, and Savannah citizens were not notified of the hurricane until the morning before it hit.

pic 2Thundersnow:  On Feb. 28, 2009, Georgia experienced a slew of thunderstorms throughout the state. The National Weather Service issued more than 25 tornado and severe thunderstorm warnings, resulting in property damage and downed trees across central Georgia. However, residents were not out of the woods just yet. Immediately following these storms, cold air filtered into the state causing a combination of snow and lightning in some areas on March 1. These “thundersnows” are an extremely rare occurrence in Georgia.

pic 3Southeast Floods: In September 2009, metro Atlanta experienced historic, record-breaking flooding. A massive amount of rain, produced by moisture drawn from the Gulf of Mexico, fell faster than local watersheds could drain the runoff. Almost half of the state’s annual rainfall of 50 inches fell in some areas in only 24 hours. The Chattahoochee River was measured at a 500-year flood level, something that should only occur twice in a millennium.  Other Georgia bodies of water that flooded include Lake Lanier, Lake Allatoona and Sweetwater Creek. As a result of these floods, ten people lost their lives, and the state insurance commissioner estimated the resulting damage cost $250 million. Fortunately, this type of flood has a 0.2 percent chance of occurring in any given year.

Remember, bizarre weather can develop quickly and with little warning. It’s important to prepare in advance and have a reliable weather alert system.

Keith Stellman is the Meteorologist-in-Charge at the National Weather Service’s Peachtree City office

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Photo 1 Chief Acree2013-2

By Roy Acree – Deputy Fire Chief/EMA Director, City of Smyrna

Last September, the City of Smyrna enthusiastically embraced a new national preparedness campaign called America’s PrepareAthon! The initiative builds on FEMA’s successful Ready America efforts – or locally, GEMA’s Ready Georgia campaign – but encourages a more focused call to action for individuals and organizations. The goal: to get communities to take simple, specific actions to increase their preparedness for a potential local disaster.

To tie into spring weather awareness, Ready Smyrna is hosting another PrepareAthon! this weekend. Smyrna Emergency Management Agency personnel have taken steps to reach out to business owners, discussing shelter-in-place plans, and encouraging participation in a city-wide tornado drill scheduled this Friday at noon.

The city has also organized a Family Preparedness Expo on March 22nd, where citizens can learn specific disaster-related protective actions and community plans. Held at Smyrna Elementary School, this event will provide preparedness information in a seminar-type environment. Scheduled presenters include; Cobb-Douglas Public Health, Cobb County District Attorney’s Office, Tru-Prep, Safe America Foundation, Smyrna Police and Fire Departments and others.

Finally, in an effort to increase awareness of Ready Smyrna’s PrepareAthon! campaign, the city has launched a new website – www.readysmyrna.com – and will unveil a mobile app this Friday. The Ready Smyrna PrepareAthon app will have several functions. Primarily, it will notify users of severe weather in the area. Additionally, it will have preparedness information embedded in the app.

Having preparedness information is good, having a plan is better, but putting a plan into place is best. Quite simply, that’s the intent of Ready Smyrna’s PrepareAthon! – increasing our whole community’s level of disaster preparedness by encouraging action. And there’s more to come.  The city is already planning the next PrepareAthon! event for September.

To learn more about America’s PrepareAthon!, visit FEMA.gov\prepareathon.

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It was the miracle shot that potentially saved thousands of lives. Six years ago today, an Alabama basketball player sank a last second shot against Mississippi State, sending the SEC tournament game into overtime. As a result, when an EF-2 tornado tore through the heart of Atlanta only minutes later – severely damaging numerous downtown landmarks including the Georgia Dome – the majority of the 20,000 fans in attendance were still in their seats.

According to the National Weather Service (NWS), tornadoes are the No. 1 severe weather-related killer in Georgia. Although they can strike at any time, March, April and May are typically the most active months for twister activity – so there’s no better time to start preparing for these dangerous storms. Here are a few other notable tornadoes that took place in the spring.

  • April 1936: Known as the “Gainesville Tornado,” a pair of storms converged in Gainesville, killing 203 people and injuring 1,600. Property damage included destruction of four blocks and 750 homes in northern parts of the state. This storm made the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration list of the 10 deadliest U.S. tornadoes on record.
  • March 2007: On March 1, a record 21 tornadoes touched down in central and south Georgia, leaving nine people dead, nearly 100 injured and causing hundreds of millions of dollars in damage. The 143-bed Sumter Regional Hospital in Americus took a direct hit from a violent EF-3 tornado, but fortunately the staff was able to safely evacuate all 53 patients from the 265,000-square-foot complex.
  • April 2011: From April 25 to 28, there were more than 150 reported tornadoes and approximately 321 fatalities in six states throughout the Southeast. In Georgia alone, 15 tornadoes touched down, including a rare powerful EF-4 tornado that struck Catoosa County, the ninth in the state’s history. The outbreak killed 15 Georgians, injured 143, caused extensive property damage and left more than 49,000 residents without power.

And here are a few key facts about tornadoes.

  • The United States has the highest number of tornado occurrences in the world with an average of 1,000 tornadoes reported each year.
  • According to the National Weather Service (NWS), there were 55 tornado-related deaths nationwide last year.
  • Most tornadoes form from severe thunderstorms, but hurricanes or tropical storms can also produce them.
  • They can appear without warning and remain invisible until dust and debris are picked up or a funnel cloud appears.
  • Winds may exceed 300 miles per hour and often move at less than 35 miles per hour.
  • Tornado watches are issued by NWS when atmospheric conditions promote the forming of tornadoes.
  • Warnings are issued when Doppler radar detects a mesocyclone in a thunderstorm, or when a funnel cloud has been spotted.
  • The Fujita scale is used to estimate the wind speed of a tornado by the damage the tornado causes. In 2007, a team of meteorologists and wind engineers updated the original scale – which was developed by Theodore Fujita of the University of Chicago in 1971 – with the Enhanced F Scale. The category scale ranges from EF0 to EF5.
    • EF0: Wind estimates between 65 and 85 miles per hour.
    • EF1: Wind estimates between 86 to 110 miles per hour.
    • EF2: Wind estimates between 111 and 135 miles per hour.
    • EF3: Wind estimates between 136 and 165 miles per hour.
    • EF4: Wind estimates between 166 and 200 miles per hour.
    • EF5: Wind estimates more than 200 miles per hour, which can tear a house off its foundation and send automobile-sized missiles flying through the air.

Although tornadoes may be unpredictable, the sudden nature of this type of disaster calls for diligent preparedness so you’re not caught off-guard. If one struck tomorrow, would you be ready? Take proactive actions and prepare in advance to protect you and your family before disaster strikes. Visit our website to ensure you have a reliable alert system and plan in place.

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