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Take time to get prepared during Severe Weather Awareness Week

The Office of Critical Event Preparedness and Response is Emory’s resource for information and training related to emergency situations and safety precautions. Weather stations on Emory’s Atlanta and Oxford College campuses improve their ability to track changing weather conditions.

Severe Weather Awareness Week in Georgia is Feb. 1-5, 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).

Tornadoes and severe weather can occur at any time. During the April 12-13, 2020, tornado outbreak, 21 tornados touched down across the state of Georgia, says Sam Shartar, CEPAR director of operations and senior administrator. Emory University is a Storm Ready University and has taken the necessary steps to ensure Emory’s community is ready to respond to weather emergencies. 

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 during an actual emergency, until help arrives,” 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 usually 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.

Emergency alerts are also sent to Emory’s 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 public safety officials. There is also information that provides guidance on what to do during an emergency.

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.

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, 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:

  • Update your personal contact information in Emory's Emergency Notification Program.
  • Download the LiveSafe Safety App.
  • Program the emergency numbers for the Emory (404-727-6111) 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
  • Consider taking a basic first aid, bleeding control and CPR Your ability to respond in a crisis could help those around you. 

For more information, visit the CEPAR website at

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