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Emergency Management is Planning to Save Your Life
Disaster Planning for Individuals and Families
Planning the actions that individuals and families can take to prepare against disaster can greatly reduce the loss of life and even property. Knowing what to do allows quick action. Many people die in disasters because they do not know what action to take and how to do it.
Following are some tips on how to prepare yourself and your family for the hazards we face in Madison County.
Generally, there are things you can do to prepare for most all emergencies. The Huntsville-Madison County Emergency Management Agency encourages individuals and families to plan ahead by doing the following:
Write a plan. Writing a plan formalizes ideas and sets up a uniform way of responding to an emergency. Organized action is important. In an emergency, seconds can save lives. People do what they practice, and in the confused aftermath of a disaster, instinct brought about by practice takes over.
Make a plan for fire, power outages, tornado, flood, earthquakes and other disasters which threaten you. Involve each person in your family, no matter what their age or ability. Plan in advance. Practice the plan and follow the plan when the emergency presents itself.
At home, prepare for each family member a Grab-and-Go Kit with a 3-day supply of food, water, clothes, medicine, baby items, etc. If you evacuate your home, it keeps you self sufficient until your family is reassembled and settled.
Establish a rendezvous point just outside the home (the mail box, for example, where everyone meets and counts heads after leaving the house because of a fire). This allows quick identification of who is missing-vital information for rescuers.
Also establish a meeting place 1-2 miles from home (a friend's or relative's house, for example, where family members can assemble if access to their home is impossible because of destruction and danger). It may be unlikely that both places will be affected by the same disaster and this immediately gives your family a place to assemble. Also, it is not too far to walk.
Designate an out-of-town family member who can contact other relatives. A central contact can call the many distant relatives who otherwise would all be trying to call the devastated area. Phone systems may be damaged, and after disasters they are typically overloaded for days. Try to establish contact with your designated out-of town family member and let them know how you are doing, so they can pass this information on to others that will worry about your well-being.
Get a NOAA Weather Radio, first aid supplies & flashlight with batteries. Safeguard vital records, keys, cash, credit cards, etc. Keep emergency supplies and equipment in your car.
If you do not have to evacuate your home, make sure that you have a phone available that plugs into a telephone jack into the wall. If you have no electrical power, your cordless phones will not work. Make certain that you have the ability to communicate with the outside world, especially emergency response agencies.
Include in your plan the purchase of insurance. Some individuals devastated by the 1989 tornado which hit the City of Huntsville did not have insurance and consequently lost their homes, businesses, and their possessions. Apartment dwellers can even get insurance. It is also a good idea to maintain an inventory of your belongings via photographs, video camera, or a written list. Put your inventory information in a safe place such as a bank box or vault. If you live in an area that typically floods, you may consider getting flood insurance. For more details about the National Flood Insurance Program, you may contact your insurance agent.
After a disaster, account for your family; check on your neighbors; render aid as needed; and notify authorities. Assemble your family; reestablish a safe physical/emotional home environment and notify/reassure relatives.
Make advance arrangements with a boarding kennel or stable, relative, etc. to care for your animals in anticipation of an evacuation. A place 1-2 miles away may not be affected in the same evacuation.
Some hotels and motels accept pets. Call ahead.
If you can't move your animals, make water (even in winter) and feed available. If possible, arrange shelter out of the wind and sun.
During severe weather or winter storm events, power outages may occur. This information is provided in conjunction with Huntsville Utilities.
Huntsville Utilities restores power by working out from its major substations and lines to its neighborhood feederlines then to lines along streets and finally to individual homes. Report outages just once; Huntsville Utilities keeps a list and multiple requests do not speed repairs.
Huntsville Utilities keeps a Priority Restoration List for those who live on electric powered life support systems. The patient's physician MUST request Huntsville Utilities, by letter, to add a patient to the list. Being on the list does not necessarily mean power is restored quickly; if an upline substation is destroyed (as in the 1989 tornado) it will be a long time and the patient may have to be moved elsewhere. Do not wait until a person's condition is critical before planning the move.
Huntsville Utilities will repair powerlines up to the meter weatherhead; Huntsville Utilities will not repair any damage to the weatherhead or to circuits in the house; the owner is responsible for these repairs. These MUST be repaired by a licensed electrician and inspected BEFORE Huntsville Utilities will restore power.
Emergency Management, the Alabama National Guard, etc. do not provide generators for emergency power. Generators must be purchased and installed in advance.
Generators connected to household wiring systems MUST have a Transfer Box installed by a licensed electrician. The Transfer Box isolates the house wiring from Huntsville Utilities lines when the generator is in use. Generators installed without a Transfer Box send current outside the house circuit into Huntsville Utilities lines and can electrocute linemen working on the lines.
Appliances connected directly to a portable generator and isolated from house wiring circuits do not need a Transfer Box. Set the generator away from the house and use approved extension cords to connect appliances. Keep extra fuel safely stored away from the generator in an approved container. Do not run a generator indoors or even in an open garage! The Carbon Monoxide will leak inside.
By law, residents may store only 5 gallons of gasoline or kerosene in their home. All fuels must be kept in approved containers. Do not use milk and anti-freeze jugs, glass jars and even approved containers with missing lids, etc. Fumes spread from leaks and will find a source of ignition.
Severe weather is the greatest threat in the Tennessee Valley, and may appear as severe thunderstorms or tornadoes, and be associated with straight line winds and lightning. The National Weather Service has the responsibility for announcing watches and warnings for severe thunderstorms, tornadoes, flooding, as well as winter storms. Watches and warnings are announced through the NOAA Weather Radio.
The National Weather Service has established definitions for
severe thunderstorm watches and warnings.
A Severe Thunderstorm Watch means that severe thunderstorms are possible in and close to the watch area.
A Severe Thunderstorm Warning is issued when a severe thunderstorm is indicated on radar or reported by a reliable source. A severe thunderstorm is any storm with winds in excess of 58 miles an hour or with hail 3/4-inch or larger.
Stay informed: listen to your NOAA Weather Radio; use local television and radio stations as backups.
Be alert! Severe Thunderstorm Warnings must not be taken lightly. Severe thunderstorms produce dangerous lightning, damaging winds, hail and heavy rains which may result in flooding. Tornadoes can develop in Severe Thunderstorms. Sometimes, severe thunderstorms can be more damaging than tornadoes. The 1994 severe weather that hit the Holiday Homes area and the City of Madison that did much damage was caused by a severe thunderstorm. It downed trees, powerlines, twisted the bleachers at John Hunt Park, etc. The severe thunderstorm of March 19, 1998 that hit the New Hope community damaged and destroyed homes and downed power lines.
Usually, Severe Thunderstorm Warnings are of short duration (one hour) and you should continue to monitor commercial radio and/or TV, or your NOAA Weather Radio for watch and warning bulletins.
The National Weather Service Office has the responsibility for announcing watches and warnings for tornadoes. The National Weather Service announces both watches and warnings over the NOAA Weather Radio.
The Huntsville-Madison County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) has the primary responsibility for alerting emergency response agencies and organizations as well as the general public.
EMA notifies emergency response agencies and organizations by telephone and radio. EMA can alert approximately 75% of Madison County residents of a Tornado Warning through use of the
outdoor siren warning system. We typically only sound the sirens for a tornado warning and for tests which occur the first Wednesday of the month at noon. When you hear the sirens, tune to a local television or radio station to find out what is going on, and to take immediate action.
The general public is also alerted by messages provided to local radio and TV stations by EMA .
RACES is an organization of emergency amateur radio operators that supports EMA, surrounding counties, and the National Weather Service Office by relaying reports received from storm spotters on an amateur radio emergency net. Sightings or reports are passed on to the National Weather Service.
The National Weather Service has established definitions for tornado watches and warnings:
A Tornado Watch means that weather conditions are favorable for the development of tornadoes in and close to the prescribed watch area during a specified period of time.
A Tornado Warning means that a tornado has been visually sighted, detected on radar, or has touched down.
According to the Huntsville-Madison County's Emergency Management Board Policy passed in 1998 and the Huntsville-Madison County Emergency Management Board Resolution passed in 1984, there are no designated public tornado shelters in Madison County. Individuals are responsible for how they receive emergency public information, and the actions they take once they receive that information. A copy of the Resolution and the Policy can be found at the Huntsville-Madison County Public Library in the Huntsville-Madison County Emergency Operations Plan.
When a tornado approaches your immediate action can save your life. Take cover, preferably in a tornado shelter, storm cellar, underground excavation, basement, or a steel-framed or reinforced concrete building of substantial construction. Stay away from windows, doors, and outside walls. Protect your head.
In Homes or small buildings, go to the basement or small interior room such as a closet or bathroom. Take cover under a sturdy workbench or heavy table if possible. Keep away from windows. If your windows are closed, leave them closed; if open, leave them open; do not waste time, take cover!
Mobile homes and vehicles are particularly vulnerable to destructive winds and should be abandoned for a more substantial structure. If there is no shelter nearby, lie flat in the nearest ditch, ravine, or culvert with your arms shielding your head. Even secure tie-downs on mobile homes can't prevent overturning.
In Schools, follow prepared plans and go to the designated areas or to the innermost portion on the lowest floor. Students should crouch on the floor with their heads next to the wall and should protect their head with their arms. Coats or jackets should be used to cover heads, arms and legs.
In Hospitals, Nursing Homes and Office Buildings, etc., go to the innermost portions on the lowest floor, preferably in the basement, or to the designated protective area. Avoid glass doorways and windows. Don't use elevators.
In Factories, workers should move quickly to the pre-designated section of the plant offering the best available protection in accordance with advance plans.
In Shopping Centers, Auditoriums Theaters, Gymnasiums or other structures with wide span roofs and load bearing outside walls, go to the designated protective area--not to your car. Take cover in small interior rooms like restrooms. Stay away from windows. If there is no time to go anywhere, take cover against something that will support or deflect falling debris such as metal partitions, heavy shelves or counters. In a theater, get under the seats.
In Open Country, move away from the tornado's path at a right angle. If there is no time to escape or find a suitable protective area, lie flat in the nearest depression, such as a ditch or ravine. Do not go to a grove of trees or under a vehicle.
Keep Listening to radio, TV, or NOAA Weather Radio for the latest weather bulletins.
Watch the Sky. Tornadoes develop so quickly there may not be time for a warning. During a Tornado Watch, be alert for the sudden appearance of violent winds, vivid lightning, rain, hail, or funnel-shaped clouds. Tornadoes are often obscured by rain, dust, hills, or trees and many occur at night. It is not unusual to have several tornadoes occurring at the same time in the same area. When in doubt, take cover.
Before a Tornado:
Stay informed: listen to your Weather Alert Radio; use TV/radio as backups.
Hurricanes do not directly affect Madison County. We feel their indirect affects as thunderstorms, wind, floods, hail, lightning, and tornadoes. Be alert and cautious when we have hurricanes to hit the Gulf Coast. It will take a while for the severe weather to get up to us in Huntsville, but the key is being prepared.
Select the best available protective area at home, work, school, and out of doors; choose the most interior small rooms on the lowest floor; underground (but not the crawl space) is best. Get under sturdy furniture and cover up with a blanket, etc. Most injuries are caused by flying debris; put as many barriers (walls and floors) and padding (blankets, coat or mattress) as possible between you and the tornado. Crouch down and keep as low as possible.
During a Tornado Watch:
Monitor the situation by tuning your radio or TV set to one of the local stations and monitor a weather radio.
When a Watch is issued, listen to broadcast advisories and be ready to take cover. Have a battery powered light and radio ready and keep family members within earshot. Keep on hand emergency supplies: a three-day supply of food, water, and other necessities. Keep your car keys on you; should a tornado strike, your car may still be operable but your keys would be lost in the rubble.
Be very CAUTIOUS: Tornadoes develop in thunderstorms. Severe Thunderstorm Warnings are frequently issued during Tornado Watches. Be sure to stay alert.Be prepared to take cover immediately should a warning be issued.
Take action immediately when you hear the tornado warning sirens. They are tested the first Wednesday of the every month at noon if the weather is good and the sky is clear. If you hear them otherwise, take immediate action.
Take cover within 60 seconds of a tornado warning. Sixty-two percent of those killed by tornadoes die in the first five minutes after a warning is issued.
Get out of cars and mobile homes; take cover in a ditch if there is no place or no time to go elsewhere. Take cover where you are out of the wind.
Travel to better protection when the weather is still good; after severe weather arrives, stay put. Travel to shelter during a Watch, not a Warning. During the Warning, when wind, flying debris and lightning abound, you are at greater risk being outside than you are staying put. If you go elsewhere, go before the threat arrives.
Observe the weather being especially alert to weather developments to the South and West.
Monitor television and radio to obtain weather information.
During a Tornado Warning:
Take cover immediately where you are.
Do not travel in an automobile. Abandon your vehicle if you are caught in a violent storm. Do not try to outrun or drive away from a tornado.
Put into practice your individual or your employer's severe weather plan.
After a Tornado
Remain in protective area until you are absolutely certain it is safe to exit. Tornadoes often occur in families consisting of several tornadoes.
Account for all family members and neighbors.
Do not touch or get near the vicinity of downed power lines.
Render first aid if you can, stay away from damaged area, travel only if necessary, use telephones only for emergencies.
Do not light candles or matches until you are certain that there are no leaking or broken gas lines. If you smell gas, open windows and doors; turn off the gas at the main service valve on the meter if you can; leave the building immediately; notify utilities as soon as possible.
If flooding has occurred or electrical wires and appliances are open to the elements, turn off the main electrical power circuit breaker. Do not use any electrical appliance until they are dry and have been inspected for safe operation.
Straight Line Winds (also known as a microbursts, downbursts, etc.) occur 5 to 8 times more often than tornadoes. These winds, which come from collapsing thundercells, can have winds up to 100 mph. Year after year, they do more property damage than tornadoes. Be alert: they often occur without warning and can produce damage similar to that of a tornado.
According to the National Weather Service, since 1990, lightning has killed sixteen people and injured 186 in the State of Alabama. Nationally, the average toll of lightning casualties is around 80 deaths and 500 injuries. In an average year, lightning will claim more victims than tornadoes or hurricanes.
Inside a home, avoid using the telephone, except for emergencies. Stay away from doors, windows, fireplaces, radiators, stoves, metal pipes, sinks, and plug-in electrical appliances. Do not use any electrical appliance like hair dryers, toothbrushes, or shavers during the storm.
If outside, go inside an enclosed building; the more substantial, the better.
If there is not enough time to reach a safe building, follow these safety rules:
Do not stand underneath a natural lightning rod such as a tall, isolated tree or utility pole in an open area.
Avoid projecting above the surrounding landscape, as you would do if you were standing on a hilltop, in an open field, by a small shed, on the beach, or fishing from a small boat.
Get out of and away from open water. Leave a small boat and take cover on land.
Get away from tractors and other metal farm equipment.
Stay away from wire fences, clotheslines, metal pipes, rails, electric powerlines, and other metallic paths which could carry lightning to you from some distance away. Stay out of bathtubs and showers.
In a forest, take cover in a low area under a thick growth of small trees. In open areas, go to a low place such as a ravine or valley. Be alert for flash floods.
If you are caught outdoors, no cover is nearby and you feel your skin tingle or your hair stand on end - indicating lightning is about to strike - squat low to the ground on the balls of your feet. Put your hands on your knees and lower your head. Do not lie flat on the ground. Laying flat puts your heart and lungs next to the ground; lighting burns to the chest can fatally damage those vital organs; crouching as described puts a very small part of your body in contact with the ground. If you are in a group - spread out and keep several yards apart.
Avoid open areas, tall/isolated objects, metallic conductors (e.g., phones, plumbing, fences, golf clubs), etc.; DON'T bunch up and DON'T be the tallest object around.
Cars with all-metal bodies provide good protection against lightning; avoid convertibles, fiberglass and glass top cars. The metal skin protects you; glass or cloth do not. Stay inside the car with the doors and windows shut.
CPR revives most lightning victims who stop breathing; check all victims, render CPR then call 911. Sometimes lightning stops a persons heart or breathing even when there is no other fatal injury. Quick action often revives these victims.
You can touch a lightning victim immediately; there is no residual charge-you can't be electrocuted (unless he is lying on a live electric power line).
When a thunderstorm threatens, get inside a home or large building.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, through its Weather Service River Forecast Centers and River District Offices, issues flood forecasts and warnings when rainfall is enough to cause rivers to overflow their banks and when melting snow may combine with rainfall to produce similar effects.
Flood warnings are forecasts of impending floods, and are distributed to the public by NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio or television and through local government emergency agencies. The warning message tells the expected severity of flooding (minor, moderate, or major), the affected river, and when and where flooding will begin. Careful preparations and prompt response will reduce property loss and ensure personal safety.
Flash flood warnings are the most urgent type of flood warning that is issued. Flash flood warnings are transmitted to the public over NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio or television.
Before the Flood:
Find out how many feet your property is above or below possible flood levels so when predicted flood levels are broadcast, you can determine if you may be flooded. Get flood insurance to protect your investment, if desired.
Keep a stock of food which requires little cooking and no refrigeration; electric power may be interrupted.
Keep a portable radio, emergency cooking equipment, lights and flashlights in working order.
Keep first aid and critical medical supplies (prescriptions, insulin, etc.) on hand.
Keep your car fueled; if electric power is cut off, filling stations may not be able to operate pumps for several days.
Keep materials like sandbags, plywood, plastic sheeting, and lumber handy for emergency water-proofing.
When You Receive a Flood Warning:
Store drinking water in closed, clean containers. Water service may be interrupted.
If flooding is likely, and time permits, move essential items and furniture to upper floors of your house.
If forced or advised to leave your home, move to a safe area before access is cut off by flood water.
Cut off all electric circuits at the fuse panel or disconnect switch. If this is not possible, turn off or disconnect all electrical appliances. Shut off the water service and gas valves in your home.
During the Flood:
Avoid areas subject to sudden flooding.
Do not walk into or travel into water of unknown depth, or that is over your calf or hubcap deep in flooded areas. A 3 mph current can sweep the strongest off of their feet. Water above the floorpan can make cars buoyant just long enough to float them off the road. Wait for the water to fall, or find another route.
If your vehicle stalls, abandon it immediately and seek higher ground. Many drown while trying to rescue their cars.
In low areas, move quickly to high ground if heavy rain occurs. Never camp in dry stream beds.
Do not eat/drink contaminated food or drink; use strict hygiene measures. Diseases, such as typhus and dysentery, are borne by flood water. Keep immunizations current.
If utilities are covered by flood water, do not turn them on until everything is dried out and checked.
Be alert for snakes, rats, possums, raccoons, and other critters taking refuge in your home.
After the Flood:
Do not use fresh foods that have come in contact with flood waters.
Test drinking water for potability; wells should be pumped out and the water tested before drinking.
Do not visit the disaster area; your presence will probably hamper rescue and other emergency operations.
Do not handle live electrical equipment in wet areas; electrical equipment should be checked and dried before returning to service. Report broken utility lines to Huntsville Utilities.
Use flashlights, not lanterns or torches, to examine buildings; flammable substances may be inside.
Keep tuned to local radio or TV stations for advice and instructions from your local government on where to go to obtain necessary medical care in your area; where to go for emergency assistance such as shelter, housing, clothing, food, etc.; and ways to help yourself and your community recover from the emergency.
The National Weather Service Office has the responsibility for informing the public about the hazards of heat waves and predicting the period of excessively high temperatures.
The National Weather Service has devised a Heat Index given in degrees F. The Heat Index is an accurate measure of how hot it really feels when relative humidity is added to the actual air temperature. They will begin computing the Heat Index when temperatures reach 95 degrees F.
The National Weather Service will initiate alert procedures when the Heat Index is expected to exceed 105 degrees F - 110 degrees F for at least two consecutive days. The Heat Index will be broadcast over the weather alert radio during hourly forecasts.
We in Emergency Management Agency have the primary responsibility for investigating inquiries made to open heat relief centers, providing heat relief information to the general public and coordinating plans to open heat relief centers if required.
Elderly persons, small children, invalids, heart patients, respiratory patients, those on certain medications or drugs, and persons with weight or alcohol problems are particularly susceptible to heat stress.
During Heat Waves:
Slow down. Reduce activity during the heat wave. Strenuous activities should be reduced, eliminated, or rescheduled to the coolest time of the day. Individuals at risk should stay in the coolest available place, not necessarily indoors.
Dress for summer. Lightweight, light-colored clothing reflects heat and sunlight and helps your body maintain normal temperatures.
Put less fuel on your inner fires. Foods (like proteins) that increase metabolic heat production also increase water loss.
Do not dry out. Drink plenty of water while the heat wave lasts. Persons who have epilepsy or heart, kidney, or liver disease, or who are on fluid restriction, or who have a problem with fluid retention should consult a physician before increasing their consumption of fluids.
Do not take salt tablets unless specified by a physician. Persons on salt restrictive diets should consult a physician before increasing their salt intake.
Avoid over-exposure and thermal shock during the first critical two or three hot days while you acclimate your body gradually to the hot weather.
Vary your thermal environment. Try to get out of the heat for at least a few hours each day. If you can't do this at home drop in to a cool store, restaurant, or theater to keep your exposure time down.
Cool or at least ventilate your home; avoid enclosed rooms. Moving air, even if not cooled, helps cool you by evaporating your sweat.
Do not get too much sun. Sunburn hurts the body's ability to cool itself.
Avoid alcoholic beverages and caffeine. They interfere with your body's ability to cool itself.
Care for pets and livestock. Make sure they have food and plenty of water. They also should have a shady, open place to rest.
Heat Cramps are defined as muscular pains and spasms due to heavy exertion that usually occur in the abdomen or legs. Get the person to a cooler place and lay down in a comfortable position. Give them a half glass of water (no alcohol or caffeinated drinks) every 15 minutes to drink. Lightly stretch the affected muscle.
Heat exhaustion occurs typically during heavy exertion in a warm, humid place when body fluids are lost through heavy sweating. Blood flow to the skin increases, causing blood flow to vital organs to drop. A mild form of shock results. If not treated, the victim's condition will get worse. Body temperature will keep rising and the victim may suffer heat stroke.
Heat Stroke (also called Sunstroke) is a threat to life. The victim's heat control mechanism (which controls sweating) stops working and the victim's temperature can rise so high that brain damage and death may occur if the body is not cooled quickly. Help is needed fast. Call 911. Move the person to a cooler place. Act quickly to cool the body by immersing the victim in a cool bath or wrap wet sheets around the body. Watch for signs of breathing problems. Keep the person lying down and continue to cool them any way you can. Give them a half glass of water (no alcohol or caffeinated drinks) every 15 minutes to drink. Until help arrives, have the victim rest in a comfortable position and watch carefully for changes in their condition.
The National Weather Service Office is responsible for the timely issuance of winter storm watches and warnings, and other winter related conditions such as traveler's advisories, and cold wave warnings.
The National Weather Service has specific terminology and definitions which identify winter conditions we may anticipate in Alabama. There are several watches, warnings, and advisories that the National Weather Service may issue during the winter months as conditions warrant.
A Winter Storm Watch - means that severe winter conditions, such as heavy snow and/or ice, are possible within the next day or two. Prepare now. These are issued about 24-48 hours in advance - plenty of time for you to get ready!
A Winter Storm Warning - means that severe winter conditions have begun or are about to begin. Stay indoors.
A Winter Storm Advisory - means that winter weather conditions are expected to cause significant inconveniences and may be hazardous. If caution is exercised, it should not be life threatening. The greatest hazard is often to motorists.
A Cold Wave Warning indicates an expected rapid fall in temperature within a 24-hour period which will require substantially increased protection for agricultural, industrial, commercial, and social activities. Regardless of the month, a cold wave warning is a red flag alert to the public that during a forthcoming forecast period a change to very cold weather will require greater than normal protective measures.
Hazardous Driving (Travelers) Advisories are issued to indicate that falling, blowing or drifting snow, freezing rain or drizzle, sleet or strong winds will make driving difficult.
An Ice Storm - is freezing rain or drizzle. Moisture falls in liquid form but freezes upon impact. The term heavy is used to indicate an ice coating sufficiently heavy to cause significant damage to trees, overhead wires, and similar objects.
Sleet is easily identified as frozen rain drops (ice pellets) which bounce when hitting the ground or other objects. Sleet does not stick to trees and wires but sleet in sufficient depth does cause hazardous driving conditions.
The Wind Chill Factor is strong winds combined with low temperatures, causing a very rapid cooling of exposed surfaces. Unprotected portions of the body, such as the face or hands, can chill rapidly and should be protected as much as possible from the cold wind. A very strong wind combined with a temperature slightly below freezing can have the same chilling effect as a temperature nearly 50 degrees F lower in a calm atmosphere. Arctic explorers and military experts have developed a term called the wind chill factor which states the cooling effect of various wind and temperature combinations. The Weather Service issues this information as the wind chill index.
Power outages are typically caused when the weight of ice forming on powerlines pulls lines down and breaks poles. Power outages can last 1-10 days and typically last 3 days. As many as 50,000 Madison County residents have been without power for 3-10 days after an ice storm. Compounding the problem is the fact that roads may be covered by 1-4" of ice at the same time, severely imperiling all traffic (including Utilities work crews).
Neither local governments nor the Alabama National Guard supply generators. Home generators must be purchased & installed beforehand; if the generator is connected to the home wiring, a Transfer Box is essential.
Hypothermia threatens the old and very young more than others. If your house has no heat and you choose to stay, wear several layers of clothing plus a hat. Eat and drink to fuel your body but avoid alcohol. Keep dry and warm; stay in bed under blankets.
Elderly people and others with poor circulation are most susceptible to frostbite. Gently warm exposed skin; do not rub it with snow, etc.
Local governments do not transport people during winter storms.
Roads may be closed ONLY by an Alabama State Trooper (or officers under their direction) and MUST be barricaded. Other officials may advise motorists that travel is hazardous or to travel at their own risk but cannot close roads.
Prepare your car before the storm hits. Check the anti-freeze protection and fill the fuel tank. On icy roads, drive slowly and carefully; increase following distance 3 times normal. Use tire chains when ice covers the roads. Do not let air out of your tires; reduced inflation tires do not have better traction. Keep a blanket in the car.
No public official can close a business or excuse an employee. All businesses are encouraged to have a Winter Storm Plan in place.
Before the Storm:
Keep ahead of a winter storm by listening to the latest National Weather Service Warnings and bulletins on radio and television.
Plan ahead of the storm. During the winter months, stock up on non-perishable foods that may be served without refrigeration or heating, in case the power goes out.
During winter months, make sure that you have at least 10 to 14 additional days worth of medication. Once a winter storm hits, the possibility of getting additional medication is difficult, and to request this during hazardous driving conditions puts the person that you ask for assistance at risk.
Determine if you are going to stay put or if you will be staying with a friend or relative. Let your friends and/or relatives know where you are going to be.
Make sure you have an alternate heat source. Be safe with alternate heating sources. Do not substitute fuels. Make sure wicks are trimmed and burn blue. Any yellow means Carbon Monoxide. Make sure chimneys are clean and joints are tight; a chimney fire can cause a house fire. DO NOT USE CHARCOAL, LP GAS, OR SIMILAR COOKING/HEATING STOVES INDOORS. They create huge amounts of Carbon Monoxide. Do not use any flame in a room with the windows shut because Carbon Monoxide will build up. Ventilate the house if you use a flame or a kerosene heater. Do not let a flame burn while you are asleep. Install a Carbon Monoxide monitor. Have heating systems and chimneys inspected annually. Check your supply of heating fuel. Fuel carriers may not be able to move if a winter storm buries your area in snow or the roads and streets are covered with ice.
Check battery powered equipment before the storm arrives. A portable radio or television set may be your only contact with the outside world during the winter storm. Also check emergency cooking facilities and flashlights.
Make sure you have a telephone plugged into a telephone jack. Cordless phones are nice, but do not work when the power is off.
If you must receive medical treatment, such as dialysis, pre-arrange your transportation. If you live far away from the treatment center or in the County, get close to the treatment facility. Stay in a hotel or with a friend. Ask a friend or relative to take you. Or if possible, call the medical facility office and try to reschedule your appointment for the next day or later, once it is evident that the roads will be clear.
During Winter Storms:
Stay indoors during storms and cold snaps unless you are in peak physical condition. If you must go out, avoid overexertion. If you must spend time outdoors, wear loose-fitting, lightweight, warm clothing in several layers. Outer layers of clothing can be removed to prevent perspiring and subsequent chill. Outer garments should be lightly woven, water repellent, and hooded.
Do not kill yourself shoveling snow. It is extremely hard work for anyone in less than prime physical condition, and can bring on a heart attack, a major cause of death during and after winter storms.
Stay reasonably warm. During winter storms - peak utilities usage - set your thermostat to 68 degrees F. If your utilities go off, wear several layers of clothing plus a hat. Eat and drink to fuel your body. Do not drink alcohol.
Call your relatives, especially your out-of-town children. Tell them how you are and where you are. They may worry about you if they cannot find you. Also, check on your neighbors! See if they are okay.
If your power goes out, more than likely, Huntsville Utilities already knows. If you call Huntsville Utilities to report power outages, please do so only once. Multiple requests do not speed up the process. They work as fast as they can.
If you have a true medical emergency, call 911.
Do not call 911 unless you have a true emergency. Do not call them for general information such as road closing information, for transportation, or to ask which stores are opened. Tune into local television stations or local radio stations for information. The Emergency Management Agency distributes emergency public information to the media as soon as possible.
Do not drive on icy or treacherous roads. While 4-wheel drive vehicles may enable you to drive in all terrains, our major concern is your ability to stop! During hazardous or icy driving conditions, our police officers are terribly overwhelmed, and it may take several hours or more for them to come to your assistance.
Please do not call public works to clear your street. They have a specific plan in place for road clearing. They clear roads around hospitals first, so that emergency medical crews can deliver persons with life-threatening emergencies, then major roads, and then minor roads.
Madison County is subject to earthquake damage. The New Madrid Fault, which runs from Marked Tree, Arkansas to Cairo, Illinois, is the primary concern. A major earthquake there is expected to cause minor damage here. No buildings are expected to collapse but some older or weak buildings could suffer damage. Chimneys could fall and plaster walls, etc. could crack. To our east, the Pulaski Fault runs along Lookout Mountain near Chattanooga, Tennessee down through Sand Mountain into DeKalb County, Alabama.
A reliable method to predict earthquakes does not exist. Normally, the first indication of an earthquake is the ground shaking or building swaying.
Most casualties and injuries result from being hit by falling objects and debris from damaged buildings.
During an Earthquake:
Stay inside and take cover under a heavy table, desk or bench, etc. or in an interior corner of a room. Stay away from windows and objects that may fall on you.
Do not leave the building until the tremors stop. Then, exit calmly (never use the elevator.) Gather at the assembly point.
Once outdoors, move away from buildings, trees and utility poles. Stay in open areas.
If safe to do so, shut off electric, gas and water service to your house. Be alert for downed live powerlines.
Be alert for fire; extinguish fires if possible. Gather fire extinguishers, water buckets and other fire fighting equipment. Organize a Fire Watch with your neighbors.
If in a car, stop as quickly as safety permits and stay in the car. Seek an open space after the shaking stops. Be cautious of downed power lines.
Be alert for additional shaking and damage caused by aftershocks that may come hours, days or weeks later.
Energy emergencies may occur for a variety of reasons, and may affect not only electrical power or natural gas supplies, but also the oil supply and other fuel shortages.
There are specific actions that can be taken during a declared energy shortage or emergency.
Always keep battery-powered radios, flashlights or lamps and fuel available.
Contact the Huntsville-Madison County Emergency Management Agency for information as to where temporary lodging is located and means of travel to these locations, if necessary.
Know how to safely shut down your home if you must temporarily evacuate during a winter storm or winter energy crisis. To do this:
Turn off all water at the entry point to your building.
Open the lowest tap and all other taps, draining systems completely.
Drain hot water and all storage tanks after turning off heating source (electricity or gas).
Flush all water closets, making sure no water remains in tanks.
If water is supplied by a well, drain pump and any storage tanks connected with this system.
Check all containers with liquids that could freeze, such as humidifiers, air conditioning units, etc.
Disconnect all electrical appliances and motors and shut off electrical supply at main fuse box.
Turn off all gas appliances and shut off gas at main source.
Prepare an evacuation pack containing food and water; eating utensils including bottle and can openers; personal safety, sanitation, and medical supplies, including special medications (insulin, heart tablets, etc.); clothing and bedding; and baby supplies (if needed).
Report suspected price rip-offs by fuel dealers, if government price controls are in effect, to the Huntsville-Madison County Emergency Management Agency.
During power brownouts or blackouts, do the following:
Determine whether or not voltage drops will harm your appliances, especially refrigerators. If in doubt, shut them off or unplug them until full power is resumed. Disconnect all unnecessary appliances.
If you must maintain in your home an electrically-operated life-support machine such as a respirator, inhalator, or a home dialysis unit, be sure this is known by Huntsville Utilities.
Conserve energy. Citizen conservation actions will make all fuels go further:
Save on lighting and turn off lights when not in use. Install solid-state dimmer switches where incandescent lights do not need to be bright all the time. Change to the more efficient fluorescent light wherever possible. Use one large wattage incandescent bulb rather than several smaller wattage bulbs where strong light is essential.
Save on lighting and turn off lights when not in use. Install solid-state dimmer switches where incandescent lights do not need to be bright all the time. Change to the more efficient fluorescent light wherever possible. Use one large wattage incandescent bulb rather than several smaller wattage bulbs where strong light is essential.
If your rooms are heated by free-standing hot water or steam radiators, put sheets of cardboard, faced with aluminum foil stuck on with masking tape or scotch tape, behind them.
Adjust hot water heater to about 105 degrees F as a maximum.
Use the small electric heating element (or gas burner) to heat small pots; fit the pot to the size of the element or burner.
Turn electric ovens off five minutes before food is done; residual heat will finish the cooking.
Set heating thermostat at 65 degrees F during the day and 60 degrees F at night. Set cooling thermostat 78 degrees F - 80 degrees F. Install a clock-thermostat that will automatically turn the heat down at a regular hour before retiring at night and that will turn it up just before wake-up time.
Minimize the use of hot water by washing clothes in warm or cold water whenever possible, taking less time in the shower, and wash dishes by hand rather than in an automatic dishwasher.
Line-dry clothes whenever possible.
Close off unoccupied rooms and shut off their heat and air conditioning.
Clean or replace hot air heating system filters and air conditioner filters once a month.
Unplug quick-on TV sets when not in use; they consume electricity even when the screen is black. Turn power switch to the off position on audio equipment and video cassette recorders when not in use.
Use full loads in washers and dryers.
Keep chimney dampers closed, or block off fireplaces to stop heat from escaping.