Surviving a Storm: Top Local Emergency Manager Gives Tips on Improving Your Odds in Severe Weather

5:47 PM, May 21, 2013   |    comments
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BOWIE, Md. (WUSA9) --  The mid-Atlantic region is not immune to deadly and violent weather, and Prince George's County Emergency Management Director Ron Gill says it is worthwhile to think now about what you would do if a tornado or other severe weather strikes.

From knowing to take shelter in a basement, hall closet or bathtub to knowing what to do if you are caught while on the road, Gill says basic knowledge can save your life.

A particular threat in our region is trees crashing through houses and onto cars.

Gill says an extremely important and proven new tool in saving lives is warnings and information delivered real-time via text to citizen's handheld devices.

"There is no doubt in Oklahoma this week that direct texts from local emergency officials gave thousands of people enough warning to take action ahead of time," Gill said. "It definitely saved lives there and it can here too."

In Prince George's County residents can sign up for text alerts at WUSA9 offers a similar alert system for the region at:

As for what to do in a storm, the following tips published by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration apply anywhere in the U.S.:

In a house with a basement: 


  • Avoid windows. 
  • Get in the basement and under some kind of sturdy protection (heavy table or work bench), or cover yourself with a mattress or sleeping bag. 
  • Know where very heavy objects rest on the floor above (pianos, refrigerators, waterbeds, etc.) and do not go under them. They may fall down through a weakened floor and crush you. 
  • Head protection, such as a helmet, can offer some protection also.


In a house with no basement, a dorm, or an apartment: 


  • Avoid windows. 
  • Go to the lowest floor, small center room (like a bathroom or closet), under a stairwell, or in an interior hallway with no windows. 
  • Crouch as low as possible to the floor, facing down; and cover your head with your hands. 
  • A bath tub may offer a shell of partial protection. Even in an interior room, you should cover yourself with some sort of thick padding (mattress, blankets, etc.), to protect against falling debris in case the roof and ceiling fail.
  • A helmet can offer some protection against head injury.


In an office building, hospital, nursing home or skyscraper:


  • Go directly to an enclosed, windowless area in the center of the building -- away from glass and on the lowest floor possible. 
  • Then, crouch down and cover your head. 
  • Interior stairwells are usually good places to take shelter, and if not crowded, allow you to get to a lower level quickly. Stay off the elevators; you could be trapped in them if the power is lost.


In a mobile home:


  • Get out! 
  • Even if your home is tied down, it is not as safe as an underground shelter or permanent, sturdy building. Go to one of those shelters, or to a nearby permanent structure, using your tornado evacuation plan. 
  • Most tornadoes can destroy even tied-down mobile homes; and it is best not to play the low odds that yours will make it. 


At school:


  • Follow the drill! 
  • Go to the interior hall or room in an orderly way as you are told.
  • 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.


In a car or truck: 

Vehicles are extremely risky in a tornado. There is no safe option when caught in a tornado in a car, just slightly less-dangerous ones. 


  • If the tornado is visible, far away, and the traffic is light, you may be able to drive out of its path by moving at right angles to the tornado. 
  • Seek shelter in a sturdy building, or underground if possible.
  •  If you are caught by extreme winds or flying debris, park the car as quickly and safely as possible -- out of the traffic lanes. Stay in the car with the seat belt on. 
  • Put your head down below the windows; cover your head with your hands and a blanket, coat, or other cushion if possible. If you can safely get noticeably lower than the level of the roadway,leave your car and lie in that area, covering your head with your hands. 
  • Avoid seeking shelter under bridges, which can create deadly traffic hazards while offering little protection against flying debris.


In the open outdoors: 


  • If possible, seek shelter in a sturdy building. 
  • If not, lie flat and face-down on low ground, protecting the back of your head with your arms. 
  • Get as far away from trees and cars as you can; they may be blown onto you in a tornado.


In a shopping mall or large store: 


  • Do not panic. Watch for others. 
  • Move as quickly as possible to an interior bathroom, storage room or other small enclosed area, away from windows.


In a church or theater: 


  • Do not panic. 
  • If possible, move quickly but orderly to an interior bathroom or hallway, away from windows. 
  • Crouch face-down and protect your head with your arms. If there is no time to do that, get under the seats or pews, protecting your head with your arms or hands.



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