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Tornado warning system to be tested on Wednesday in Athens

Athens-Clarke County and the University of Georgia will conduct their annual tests of the outdoor tornado warning sirens and emergency alert notification systems on Wednesday, February 7, 2023 at approximately 9:00 AM. If inclement weather is possible, the test will be postponed until Friday, February 9 at 9:00 AM. The tests are part of the statewide Severe Weather Preparedness Week held during February 5-9, 2023.

"Severe weather emergencies are possible in Athens-Clarke County any time of year," said Nate Moss, Athens-Clarke County Fire Chief and Fire & Emergency Services Department Director. "Some of these hazards could include ice storms, hurricanes, tornadoes, flooding, and other types of serious weather events. Everyone in the community should spend some time when these events are not an immediate concern to plan and prepare for each of these weather emergencies at their homes and workplaces."

Athens-Clarke County residents can sign up for e-mail and text message alerts about emergencies and other community alerts through the Notify Me area of the Unified Government’s website at www.accgov.com/notifyme. Registration for UGA Alert is available at www.ugaalert.uga.edu and requires a UGA MyID.

The 12 tornado warning outdoor sirens are located at Sandy Creek Park, Holland Youth Sports Complex, Bishop Park, West Broad Street at Old Epps Bridge Road, the College Avenue Parking Deck, the UGA Chemistry Building, the UGA University Village Community, Hilsman Middle School, the City of Winterville, Southeast Clarke Park, the UGA State Botanical Garden, and the UGA East Campus Parking Deck.

The tornado sirens are located around the community and are often near large outdoor community spaces that are frequently populated. The sirens are designed to alert residents who are outside to seek immediate shelter when a tornado warning is issued by the National Weather Service (NWS).

Although residents who are inside their homes or offices may hear the sirens when they sound, residents who are in structures are not the primary audience. The tornado sirens are only activated in the event of a tornado warning or a test and are not activated for other severe watches or warnings or non-weather emergencies.

The drill is part of the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency’s (GEMA/HS) Severe Weather Preparedness Week (Feb. 5-9) to encourage Georgians to prepare now for any type of severe weather. GEMA/HS urges Georgians to participate in their own drills, as the peak of tornado activity typically occurs in the spring months.

To prepare, plan, and stay informed about tornadoes, Ready Georgia shares the following tips:

Before the drill

Make a “Ready Kit” (https://gema.georgia.gov/plan-prepare/ready-georgia/build-kit) for at least three days of self-sufficiency.

Know the terminology used to identify a tornado hazard.

A tornado watch means weather conditions are favorable for tornadoes to develop.

A tornado warning means either a tornado is occurring or expected to develop shortly in an area and shelter should be taken immediately.

Determine in advance where to take shelter during the tornado drill.

Storm cellars or basements provide the best protection.

If underground shelter is not available, an interior room or hallway on the lowest floor possible is the best option.

In a high-rise building, go to a small interior room or hallway on the lowest floor possible.

During a drill

Announce the start of the tornado drill and inform participants that they should act as though a tornado warning has been issued.

Evacuate participants just as you would if taking shelter during a tornado warning. Use stairs to reach the lowest level of a building; avoid using elevators.

Once participants reach the designated safe area, they should crouch as low as possible to the floor, facing down and covering their heads with their hands.

Once everyone has been evacuated and taken cover, announce that the drill is over.

After a drill

Review the drill to identify any necessary changes or improvements to your tornado safety procedures. For example:

Do more safe areas need to be identified?

Do the designated safe areas need to have clutter removed or need to be cleaned out to be more accessible?

Does everyone know the fastest routes to take shelter in safe areas?

Is there a better method for letting everyone know of an approaching tornado needed?

The Athens-Clarke County Fire and Emergency Services Department encourages all residents to take a few minutes to learn about how to deal with emergency situations by visiting the Ready Georgia website at https://gema.georgia.gov/plan-prepare/ready-georgia.

Severe Weather Preparedness Week isn’t just for individuals and their families. GEMA/HS highly encourages schools, businesses and other organizations to use this as an opportunity to evaluate their preparedness for a severe weather event.

Severe Weather Preparedness Week’s activities begin with Family Preparedness Day on February 5, when households are encouraged to get a kit, make a plan, and be informed through weather radio and wireless emergency alerts. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio is a nationwide network of radio stations dedicated to broadcasting continuous weather information directly from a nearby National Weather Service office. It is the best way to hear watches and warnings from the National Weather Service (NWS), even if they are issued in the middle of the night.

Severe Weather Preparedness Week focuses on a different area of weather safety each day. The topics are:

  • Monday, Feb. 5 – Family Preparedness/NOAA Weather Radio Day: Purchase a life-saving NOAA Weather Radio and choose an out-of-state friend as a “check-in” contact to call if family members get separated.

  • Tuesday, Feb. 6 – Thunderstorm Safety (including hail and damaging wind threats and impacts): Learn the difference between a thunderstorm watch and a thunderstorm warning.

  • Wednesday, Feb. 7 – Tornado Safety (and tornado warning system and UGA & ACCGov alert system test at 9:00 AM): Determine in advance where to take shelter in case of a tornado warning.

  • Thursday, Feb. 8 – Lightning Safety: Learn the 30/30 rule. If after seeing lightning, you cannot count to 30 before hearing thunder, go indoors. Stay indoors for 30 minutes after hearing the last clap of thunder.

  • Friday, Feb. 9 – Flood Safety: Copy important documents, seal them in a watertight container, and add them to your ready kit.

For more information on preparing for severe weather, visit Ready Georgia at www.gema.georgia.gov or the Athens-Clarke County Fire and Emergency Services Department at www.accgov.com/fire.


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