CSO writer Kathleen S. Carr spoke with Gary Woodall, warning coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service, to find out what CSOs and citizens can do to protect themselves in the face of a natural disaster.
Woodall provided the following six steps:
1. Understand the potential threats in your particular area. Every area of the United States is vulnerable to some sort of natural hazard: earthquakes, landslides, tornadoes, etc. It’s important to know the hazards that are most likely to affect you.
2. Develop a plan. Know what you’ll do ahead of time. First you should determine safe areas. Then decide how you’d move employees and visitors to those areas, and do this well before the hazardous time of year is upon you.
3. Practice the plan. It’s fine having it on paper. But you need to be able to put that plan into action at a moment’s notice. Practice it. Understand traffic flow problems at your facility. Find out how quickly you can put the plan in action, especially if you have new key players or physical changes to your facility.
4. Designate key players. Ask yourself—and have answers to—the following questions: Who is responsible for monitoring weather? Who is responsible for pulling the trigger and activating that plan? Who will be responsible for communicating the plan through the facility? Who will ensure all employees and visitors are, in fact, in the designated safe location. And are there people and technological backups for each these key players?
5. Stay informed. Set up multiple methods of obtaining hazardous weather information. “I’ve had the grim duty of going out and investigating the loss of life and property to determine what the problem was,” says Woodall. “More often than not, it was a communication breakdown. We do a pretty good job of forecasting and warning. The weakest link is communicating that weather information. You should have as many ways as possible of getting that information. This means weather radios with alarms and having staff monitor TV and radio to keep situationally aware.” The National Weather Service Forecast Offices post all watches and warnings on their websites. Go to www.nws.noaa.gov , then click on your local area on the map to be directed to your local forecast office. The National Weather Service site also has a complete listing of private weather providers; find the provider in your area at www.nws.noaa.gov/IM/more.htm.
6. Respond quickly. If a threat materializes in your area, activate your plan as quickly as possible. You may only have minutes (in the case of a tornado) to execute it. Have all of your backups in place, and make sure they’re understood by everyone in your organization.