Get prepared during Severe Weather Awareness Week

By Kimber Williams | Emory Report | Feb. 6, 2017

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In order to enhance Emory’s ability to track changing weather conditions, the Office of Critical Event Preparedness and Response has installed several new weather stations on Emory’s Atlanta and Oxford College campuses.

Severe Weather Awareness Week in Georgia is Feb. 6-10, which offers an opportunity for the Emory community to review campus emergency plans for what to do in the event of disasters, according the Office of Critical Event Preparedness and Response (CEPAR).

Recent balmy weather belies the fact that tornadoes and severe weather can occur at any time, as evidenced by a deadly tornado outbreak that swept through southern Georgia last month, says Sam Shartar, CEPAR senior administrator.

The best plan is to learn about community resources now, before weather events strike, says Shartar. “Knowledge empowers people. If you take time to think through what to do in advance, you’ll be better prepared to take care of yourself and those around you until you can get help,” he notes.

Springtime can bring an array of stormy weather, from late cold snaps, dangerous winds and severe thunderstorms to lightning, hail and flash flooding — all of which can create hazardous conditions.

“In Georgia, this is the season commonly associated with the highest amount of weather activity,” Shartar says. “You can see tornadoes here year-round, but certainly the spring months are the most active.”

That’s where Emory’s emergency notification system comes in, enabling the university to send emergency notifications quickly and efficiently through multiple channels, including text messages and email, outdoor sirens, social media, RSS messages to webpages, and cable messages directly to Emory Cable Television.

And now, emergency alerts may also be sent to Emory’s new safety app, LiveSafe. Developed for smartphones and tablets, the free app provides a quick, convenient and discreet way for students, faculty and staff to communicate directly with Emory University public safety officials.

The campus community is encouraged to download the app here.

In order to enhance Emory’s ability to track changing weather conditions, CEPAR has also installed several new weather stations on Emory’s Atlanta and Oxford College campuses.

The new instruments, which include sky cameras, “give us a real-time view of what is happening within our microclimates,” Shartar says. “So even though radar reports may indicate that it should be raining, we may not be seeing that on the ground. This helps us verify what’s happening on the ground.”

Preparing for tornadoes and severe thunderstorms

Knowing what to do in the event of a tornado warning or dangerous winds, being aware of where shelters are located on campus, reviewing CEPAR's online resources, and downloading a weather app — some are free — to your smartphone are all steps that anyone can take now, Shartar says.

In the event of a tornado or dangerous winds (winds of 55 mph or greater): 

  • If you are indoors, move to a Severe Weather Refuge location on campus, or the lowest level of a building in an interior room or hallway, away from windows. The locations are marked with the Severe Weather Refuge logo.
  • If you are outside, seek shelter immediately on the lowest floor of a sturdy nearby building away from windows.
  • If no shelter is available, lie flat in a nearby ditch or depression and cover your head with your hands. Flying debris causes most fatalities and injuries associated with a tornado.
  • If you are in a vehicle, which offers little protection, go to the lowest floor of a sturdy nearby building, away from windows or lie flat in a nearby ditch or depression and cover your head with your hands.
  • Be aware of falling debris and power line hazards.

Preparing for ice, snow and freezing temperatures

While less common than tornadoes or severe thunderstorms, ice and snow events can also have a serious impact in the Atlanta area, Shartar notes.

Risks associated with extreme cold include hypothermia and frostbite. Safety tips include:

  • Stay dry; wet clothing speeds the loss of body heat.
  • Stay covered; use mittens or gloves and a hat to prevent heat loss.
  • Dress in layers; air trapped between loose layers helps to insulate your body.
  • Keep a winter weather kit in your car with items that you may need if you become stranded on a roadway, including blankets, water bottles, a small shovel and kitty litter, for traction on ice.

In addition to the risk that extreme cold brings to people and animals, cold temperatures can also cause problems with frozen pipes that may lead to the loss of water pressure and ruptured pipes.

In the event of a utility failure, do not attempt to correct the problem on your own.

Immediately notify Emory Police at 404-727-6111 or call Campus Services during regular business hours (8 a.m. to 5 p.m.) at 404-727-7463.

Creating your personal safety plan

Consider adding these tasks to your own safety preparedness plan: 

  • Enroll or update your personal contact information in Emory's Emergency Notification Program.
  • Program the emergency numbers for the Emory (404-727-6111) or Oxford (770-784-8377) police departments into your cellphone.
  • Enter an "In Case of Emergency" number into your personal cellphone.
  • Establish a personal communication plan. Do friends and family know how to contact you in the event of an emergency?
  • Know how to exit your building if the primary pathway/door is blocked.
  • Follow campus signage to locate shelters, in the event of severe weather or tornados.
  • Know how to readily access Emory emergency contact numbers.
  • Consider taking a basic first aid or CPR class. Your ability to respond in a crisis could help those around you.

For more information, visit the CEPAR website at emergency.emory.edu