COVINGTON Newton County has seen its share of severe weather in recent months, and Newton County Emergency Management is urging residents to make plans now to stay safe during the next onslaught that nature hurls this way.
This week was designated by the Georgia Emergency Management Agency as Severe Weather Awareness Week. Students have learned about weather safety this week at school, and Newton County Emergency/Risk Management Deputy Director Jody Nolan said he would like to encourage parents to prepare their households.
During winter storms, floods, tornadoes or hurricanes, it could take emergency workers 72 hours or more to reach certain areas in order to open roadways and restore utilities. The benefit of being self-sufficient for three days or longer is that residents can survive circumstances that might otherwise be tragic. GEMA offers this information from its Ready Georgia campaign.
Prepare for severe weather:
Make your own Ready kit of emergency supplies. Most of the items are inexpensive and easy to find, and any one of them could save your life.
Water: At least 3 gallons per person for drinking and sanitation
Food: At least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
Manual can opener if kit contains canned food
Battery-powered or hand crank NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert and extra batteries
Flashlight and extra batteries
First aid kit
Whistle to signal for help
Face mask to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter in place
Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
Specific items for children, family members' special needs or pets
Cash or travelers checks
Important documents in a waterproof container
Blankets and warm clothes
Plan for severe weather:
Be sure every family member knows important phone numbers for schools, offices, home and emergency services.
Identify an out-of-town contact. It might be easier to make a long-distance phone call than to call in town, so an out-of-town contact is in a better position to communicate among separated family members.
Identify a meeting place near your home where family members can meet if separated during severe weather.
Map out evacuation routes in case you are ordered to evacuate and always keep at least a fourth of a tank of gas in your car.
Know your insurance policies and whether your home is in a flood zone.
Stay informed about severe weather:
Find out what type of disasters could occur and how you should respond.
Familiarize yourself with the terms that are used to identify severe weather, such as advisories, watches and warnings.
Monitor NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio TV and the Internet to stay informed about weather conditions.
"The biggest thing people need to do is sit down with their family like they were planning a trip or vacation and talk about different things that could possibly happen in their home flood, fire, tornado, ice storm," he said. "They need to have plenty of food and plenty of water, and they need to have a supply of medications on hand. The Red Cross and FEMA say they should prepare to be safe, secure and sanitary."
Nolan said preparations should be made to be
without power or assistance from authorities for at least 72 hours.
"Emergency services are going to prioritize calls, and just because somebody's power is off and their house is damaged, that won't take priority over somebody who may be trapped in their residence due to collapse," he said.
Nolan said during the tornado last year that hit the High Point area of Newton County, there were a lot of communication problems. He said if people would consider ahead of time making a plan for emergency contacts, it would alleviate a lot of panic and unnecessary calls should an emergency arise.
"Have a relative out of the affected area that everybody can call and say they're OK," he suggested. "Instead of everybody trying to call each other in a storm-stricken area, make arrangements ahead of time to call that relative and everybody can check in with that person."
Last year he said 911 lines were tied up because people were worried about relatives and friends.
"They'd heard a tornado had touched down in that part of the county and 911 was getting an abundance of calls from the affected area, but they also had family members calling 911 just to check on family members. That's not a good plan at all," he said. "911 is not an information center."
He also cautioned against calling 911 to inquire about power instead of calling the power provider for your area.
"The people at 911 don't know when your power is coming back on. Sometimes they receive hundreds of calls just asking about power," he said.
He cautioned that one of these days the people of Newton County are going to wake up and find an ice storm has hit the area.
"We've gone a whole generation without an ice storm of any significance so it's really going to be a wake-up call. It's not a question of if it's going to happen here. It's only a question of when, and everybody needs to be prepared," he said.
Massive power outages for several days are pretty much of a given during such a storm and people should prepare by having safe heating alternatives and ample food and water in reserve. Keeping propane tanks full is a good idea because it could be a long time before a truck can deliver another supply. Even small propane tanks attached to grills should be full during the winter because you never know when you may have to resort to using the grill for cooking. Also, every family should have a plan if it becomes necessary to leave their home of where they will go until the power comes back on or the situation improves.
"The last place you want to stay for an extended length of time is a shelter because they have a bare minimum of accommodations," Nolan said. "You're going to be safe, secure and sanitary in a shelter, but that's about it."
Document your possessions with video, photos and serial numbers for speedy replacement by your insurance company should disaster strike. Leave those photos and lists with a family member at another location.
Nolan said in case of damage to your home, every homeowner should know where the gas, electric and water cutoffs are in order to prevent further damage. Also, he suggested storing a couple of 20-by-20 tarps "just in case."
"You need to show your insurance company that you're making an effort to protect items in your house that have not been damaged," he said.
Nolan said having a NOAA weather radio was as important as having a smoke alarm in your home.
"Weather forecasters have gotten a lot better and there's not nearly as much guesswork, They can call a thunderstorm just about on the dime. But a lot of people ignore their warnings," Nolan said, recalling that people were killed several years ago in Cobb County because they didn't heed weather warnings.
Nolan said citizens need to listen when a tornado watch is issued, because a warning is potentially imminent.
Nolan said making a few decisions ahead of time to take care of yourself should disaster strike will save a lot of frustration when the event does occur.
"People are relying more and more heavily on the government. Local government will provide EMS services, fire services and police protection, but as far as taking care of your every need during a disaster, it's not going to happen," Nolan said.
For more information, go to www.gema.ga.gov, www.ready.ga.go, www.srh.noaa.gov/ffc or www.redcross.org.
ROADS CLOSED DUE TO FLOODING
Due to heavy rains, Newton County Emergency/Risk Management Deputy Director Jody Nolan said Sockwell, Sewell and Ashland Farm roads are closed. Flooding is anticipated at Riverside Mobile Home Park and possibly on Brown Bridge Road at the Yellow River. The National Weather Service predicts the Yellow River will crest at 13.59 feet around 1 p.m. today. Flood stage is at 11 feet.