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This week is Severe Weather Preparedness Week in Alabama, and the Red Cross is joining state and federal emergency partners to prepare for the next weather emergency.

“Disasters can strike suddenly, and Alabama is no stranger to volatile weather, including tornados and thunderstorms,” said Carrie Bush, regional preparedness program manager for American Red Cross' Alabama and Mississippi region. “With spring right around the corner, I can’t stress enough the importance of having an emergency plan in place before a disaster happens. Red Cross has tips and resources that can help.”

Tornados

Tornados can happen anywhere, at any time, according to the Red Cross. Everyone should know the tornado danger signs, such as dark, often greenish clouds, a wall cloud, a cloud of debris, large hail, a funnel cloud or a loud, roaring noise. A tornado watch is issued when a tornado is possible in or near a specific area. A tornado warning means a tornado has been spotted and people should seek shelter immediately.

Safety steps

The Red Cross urges everyone to pick a safe room in their homes where loved ones and pets can gather, such as a basement, storm cellar or interior room on the lowest floor with no windows.

Mobile homes are not safe during tornados. If someone is in a mobile home, they should get to the nearest sturdy building or shelter immediately. Do not wait until the tornado is visible.

People should also:

• Know their community’s warning system;

• Prepare for strong winds by removing dead, or damaged limbs from trees; and

• Move, or secure lawn furniture, trash cans, hanging plants or anything else that can be picked up by the wind and become a projectile.

If someone is caught outdoors, they should seek shelter in a basement, shelter or sturdy building. If that’s not possible, they should take the following steps:

• If you cannot quickly walk to a shelter, immediately get into a vehicle and try to drive to the closest sturdy shelter. Remember to buckle your seat belt;

• Stay away from bridges and highway overpasses;

• If strong winds and flying debris occur while driving, pull over and park, keeping your seat belt on and engine running; and

• Put your head down below the windows, covering your head with your hands and a blanket.

Thunderstorms

When thunder roars, go indoors, Red Cross officials said. If you can hear thunder, you are close enough to be in danger from lightning.

The National Weather Service recommends staying inside for at least 30 minutes after the last thunderclap.

Here are some additional steps you can take to keep yourself safe during a thunderstorm:

• Postpone outdoor activities if thunderstorms are likely to occur. Many people struck by lightning are not in the area where rain is occurring;

• If a severe thunderstorm warning is issued, take shelter in a substantial building or in a vehicle with the windows closed. Get out of mobile homes that can blow over in high winds;

• Avoid electrical equipment and telephones. Use battery-powered TVs and radios instead;

• Keep away from windows;

• Do not take a bath or shower, or use plumbing;

• If you are driving, attempt to safely exit the roadway and park. Stay in the vehicle and turn on the emergency flashers until the heavy rain ends. Avoid touching metal or other surfaces that conduct electricity in and outside the vehicle; and

• If you are outside and cannot reach a safe building, avoid high ground, water, tall trees that are isolated and metal objects such as fences or bleachers. Picnic shelters, dugouts and sheds are not safe.

Preparing as you age

According to research from the American Red Cross Scientific Advisory Council and the American Academy of Nursing, older adults are more vulnerable and experience more casualties after a natural disaster than other age groups.

Several factors make older adults more vulnerable during a disaster, including chronic conditions, medication concerns, dependence on assistive devices like walkers and eyeglasses, need for caregiver support and living in social isolation.

To be prepared, older adults should think about what they would do during a disaster before it occurs. Understand how medical, physical and cognitive needs may affect a person's ability to respond if they had to stay in the home for two weeks or more or had to evacuate. Building a support network and identifying helpers such as family, friends, neighbors, caregivers and care providers who may be able to assist is vital. Other adults should meet with these supporters and decide how to communicate in an emergency.

Visit www.redcross.org/olderadults for additional resources.

Red Cross app

Officials said the Red Cross app “Emergency” can help keep residents safe with real-time alerts, shelter locations and safety advice. The Red Cross First Aid App provides instant access to information on handling the most common first aid emergencies. Download these apps for free at redcross.org/apps or by searching for “American Red Cross” in your device's app store.

Virtual emergency preparedness

In partnership with Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Alabama Red Cross offers various virtual emergency preparedness programs to help people become better informed and prepare for emergencies. Topics include tornados, home fires, COVID-19 and disaster and emergency preparedness for older adults.

Visit http://bit.ly/virtualpreparedness to find out more.

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