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May 19, 2014

SUBJECT:      City encourages all to have a plan for hazardous weather

CONTACT:    Lynn Onstot, Public Information Officer

                        417-624-0820, ext. 204

In light of recent stormy weather, and siren activations, in the Midwest, City officials strongly encourage all residents to be aware of the weather changes during a storm watch. There is always the possibility of a storm/tornado watch developing into a warning situation that requires taking shelter. Various resources, such as the City of Joplin’s website, American Red Cross phone application, as well as many of the media outlets, have weather notification systems that alert residents of severe weather. These are important tools during the storm season and can help citizens plan their activities and take the weather conditions under consideration. By using these resources, people can be more prepared in a severe weather situation.

“The City recommends ‘shelter in place’, which means we want people to shelter where they are, rather than driving in their vehicles to try to reach a destination for shelter,” said Emergency Manager Keith Stammer. “In recent Midwest storms there have been dire consequences when sitting in traffic, or traveling in a vehicle. It is very sad and disheartening to hear these stories, and we want our citizens to be alert and be safe as storms approach our areas.”

In addition, the City encourages residents to have established a plan for themselves and family members that they can implement if needing to take shelter.

“Preparation and planning are very important factors to do BEFORE a storm is approaching your area,” said Emergency Manager Keith Stammer. “Identify where you will take shelter in your home now, and take your necessary supplies to that area. By doing this early preparation, family members can go directly there without searching for supplies when a storm is near.”

Stammer reminds the public of simple rules when determining the best location to shelter:

Inside beats outside;

Below ground beats above ground;

Lower level beats upper level; and

Interior room beats one near windows.

He reminds the public that the rule is to put as many walls between you and the outdoors when taking shelter. Often this means utilizing a closet or interior bathroom. If this is the location in your home, he recommends clearing out some space for the necessary supplies during the storm season.

In some cases people have installed shelters on their properties, and the same guidelines apply to these facilities. Keep your supplies in the unit to prevent last minute searches during precious minutes before a storm.

Registration of the storm shelter is also important, whether it is an individual unit or an interior room. Emergency responders will use the information from the registration to determine where they should be searching if a storm should hit a residence. To register your shelter, go to http://www.joplinmo.org and look under the Department of Emergency Management.

In preparation, residents should have an emergency supplies kit packed with bottled water, non-perishable foods, necessary medications, a flashlight, batteries and a first aid kit.

“Another important tool to help community members be prepared for emergencies is an all-hazards NOAA weather alert radio,” adds Stammer.  “These programmable radios operate on electricity with battery-backup.  They can be programmed to receive information for only the counties and topics of interest to the user.  They carry alerts and information on severe weather, missing children, public health emergencies, civil emergencies and more.”

The radios can be purchased at local retailers. For more information on preparing for emergencies, contact the Joplin-Jasper County Office of Emergency Management at 417-623-5858.