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April meeting recap: Severe Weather Awareness Week

Wednesday, April 16, 2014 1:44 PM | Deleted user
The week of April 21st is Severe Weather Awareness Week. And, yes, we are talking about this again! We talk about severe weather for at least one week every year, and for some reason, the message just isn’t sinking in. That’s what Julie Anderson of Homeland Security and Emergency Management made clear to us at our April 10th meeting. Maybe you know what she’s talking about.

We had a great discussion during our meeting and many members shared stories of friends, families or roomfuls of complete strangers who failed to heed warnings of threatening weather and alerts. It’s this apathy or misunderstanding that makes it so important for us to spend time thinking, talking about and planning for what to do in case of severe weather.

Prepare

Your business should be prepared to shelter employees in place for up to three days if need be. FEMA may well be coming to bail you out, but that can take time. If employees are forced to seek shelter at your business, you need to be prepared with water and other necessities to keep people comfortable and alive.

Communication

Julie shared a story of pulling off Hwy 494 when there were funnel clouds reported in the area. She went into a restaurant to seek shelter, and she was the only one who knew of the nearby threat. She urged everyone to take responsibility for keeping informed about severe weather, perhaps through a weather radio or mobile phone alerts.

Once a business is aware of a severe weather warning, they need to have a plan for when and how they will communicate that to employees. If you don’t have a process in place, now is a good time to think about how you will communicate about severe weather to your employees.

Practice

Practicing your plan is vital to being able to successfully navigate severe weather. When the disaster strikes, you may not have the luxury of things going as planned, but it’s during practice that you become aware of what you are overlooking, and become better prepared. Even basic steps can go a long way when practiced. In an emergency, your brain just says “GO!” But you can prepare that go back in advance, so when you go, you’ve got what you need to keep yourself comfortable.

A few interesting takeaways

In Minnesota, the most common natural hazard is flooding. This year, the flood risk is only moderate, but you still need to be prepared.

When the siren sounds, it’s time to act. Sirens are manually operated and there is a lag time between when a threat is identified and when they sound. They are not an advanced warning system, they might be a good ten minutes or more behind the tornado sighting.

The community is here to help. Familiarize yourself with the organizations in the area who can help during or after a weather emergency. As Julie pointed out, surviving a flash flood is half the battle; cleaning up and getting back to business or on with life is the other half. There are organizations out there who volunteer to help and understand that mold can be as devastating as flood waters if not handled properly.

This month, we had a nice physical takeaway! All attendees received an emergency bag, empty, but conveniently printed with a checklist of necessary items right on it.

Severe Weather Awareness Week

During Severe Weather Awareness Week, each day is dedicated to a different natural disaster and resources for preparing for and dealing with each can be found on the Homeland Security and Emergency Management website:

• Monday - Alerts and warnings
• Tuesday - Severe weather (lightning and hail)
• Wednesday - Floods
• Thursday - Tornadoes (with statewide tornado drills)
• Friday - Extreme heat

April’s meeting was another lively conversation packed with useful information. We thank Julie Anderson for coming out to speak with us and sharing ideas about how to prepare for severe weather at work and at home.

Join us next month on May 8th when we have a panel discussion about BC/DR software. We hope to see you there!

Proud member of UMSA (Upper Midwest Security Alliance), a nonprofit alliance of security and risk-related organizations and host of the Secure360 Conference.

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