By Joseph Hamrick
The Commerce Journal
Not many people may know that lightning can strike over 10 miles away from the mother storm, or that it just takes six inches of fast moving water to knock a person off their feet or only two feet of water to float a car.
According to Chris Vaughan, emergency management coordinator for the Commerce Police Department, a few life-saving measures can be taken before and after a storm hits.
“I feel that everyone needs a weather alert radio in their house,” he said. A weather alert radio is a special type of radio that can be programmed by county to go off whenever there is an alert, watch or warning in the county. “They need to have water, non-perishable foods and snacks on hand, and have a battery powered radio.”
Vaughan also said households should have plenty of batteries available and to have a florescent lantern on hand as well, instead of candles.
“I discourage the use of candles,” he said. “They get knocked over and are a fire hazard.’
Vaughan said every household should come up with an family disaster plan akin to the American Red Cross plan, and to go over that plan on a regular basis.
A disaster plan would include knowing where to shelter in the case of a tornado. People are encouraged to get out of automobiles and mobile homes and get into a low-lying ditch.
Knowing the difference between a watch and a warning can help a household take preparatory actions for severe weather.
According to the National Weather Service, a watch means that conditions are favorable for the severe weather event in or near the watch area, and a warning means that a severe weather event is imminent or occuring in the warned area.
If a flash flood arises, get out of areas that are subject to flooding, including dips, low spots and washes. If driving, do not drive through flooded roadways, and if your vehicle stalls, get out and move to higher ground.
Vaughan said in a flood, people should live by the saying “Turn around, don’t drown”.
When a severe thunderstorm strikes Vaughan said to unplug all appliances except for ones that are being used to receive weather updates and to hunker down in your house and stay away from windows.
Sometimes the worst part of a sever weather event is the aftermath.
Vaughan said people should use caution when returning home or waiting for the power to be restored.
According to the United States Department of Homeland Security, people should not enter their home if: gas can be smelled, floodwaters remain around the building or the home was damaged by fire and authorities have not declared it safe to re-enter.
Vaughan said a good thing to remember to do is put any important phone numbers, especially the 800 numbers of gas, elecric and water companies on the refrigerator in your home and wait patiently for the power to be restored.