Priceless Star Wars Advertising: Snowbot BB-8

Nothing better than free priceless advertising like this for the new Star Wars robot, BB-8.

402webpagelittlemountainwebdesigndotcomstarwarsadvertisingsnowmanBB-8

I call this “snowbot”.

The name for the process when a fan (AKA brand advocate) does something like this is called “crowd sourcing”. This is important as it reaches more people than just the company posting or creating these things. The fans take it upon themselves to share and spread the news. This is usually defined with social media but is not limited to fun things like this.

Planning for Emergencies: Hurricanes (Fourth of a Series)

People are the most important part of any business. When preparing or reviewing your business plan regularly, make sure you have emergency plans also in place for you, your people and your business.
In the fourth part of our series, we will continue to give you information on protecting yourself and others for different situations. The topic of our fourth blog is associated with coastal areas more than the Midwest, but it can impact Midwest weather, as well – tropical cyclones or, as they’re better known, hurricanes.

Severe Weather Awareness: Hurricanes

In the early morning hours of 29 August 2005, the Gulf Coast was hit by Hurricane Katrina. Although it reached a Category 5 ranking on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, at the time it made landfall, the storm had only a Category 3 ranking, with sustained 120 mph winds. Katrina had a diameter of 400 miles, displacing people from their homes in Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana. Its leading winds, which were strongest, demolished Gulfport and Biloxi, Mississippi. Its storm surge most famously leveled levees in New Orleans, leading to massive flooding; over 80 percent of the city was inundated for weeks, as were surrounding parishes.

The storm killed an estimated 1,833 people and left thousands more homeless, causing more than $100 billion of the $159 billion in damage caused by all the hurricanes and tropical storms that formed that year.

How Are Hurricanes Named?

Tropical storms in the Atlantic and Northeast Pacific are named from separate lists approved by the World Meteorological Organization and maintained by the National Weather Service’s National Hurricane Center. The lists were begun in 1953 and switched from all female names to alternating male and female names in 1978 for the Northeast Pacific and 1979 for the Atlantic. Lists are alphabetical, omitting the letters Q, U, X, Y, and Z for Atlantic storms and Q and U for the Northeast Pacific (east of 140 degrees West longitude). Each set of names are re-used in six-year cycles; however, any storm that proves exceptionally deadly or destructive has its name retired and replaced with a new name.

If more named storms occur in any year than there are assigned names for, additional names are assigned from letters in the Greek alphabet. This happened in 2005, the year Hurricane Katrina hit, when there were 27 Atlantic storms.

Typhoons and cyclones have different naming conventions than do tropical cyclones in waters which touch the United States. In addition, hurricanes in the North Central Pacific are given names from a rotating set of Hawaiian names.

How Do Hurricanes Form?

Like tornadoes, hurricanes are cyclonic winds that form around low pressure systems; the main differences are that hurricanes always form over water and that they are much wider than tornadoes.

Hurricanes form over warm ocean waters near the equator. The warm waters evaporate and heat the air above it, causing it to rise and lower the air pressure. As the warm, moist air rises, the surrounding air rushes in and it, too, heats up, absorbs moisture and rises. The air begins to swirl about as it rises.

As the air rises, it cools, forming clouds that also swirl about with the air and water beneath them. The air pressure continues to drop, forming an “eye” in the center that is calm and windless, while the surrounding air continues to spin faster. If the storm is north of the equator, the winds spin counterclockwise; if it is south of the equator, they spin clockwise.

As long as the winds stay below 39 mph (63 km/hr), the storm is classified as a tropical depression. Once the winds reach this speed, the tropical depression becomes a tropical storm; it is at this point that the storm is given a name. Once the winds reach a speed of 74 mph (119 km/hr), the storm is classified as a tropical cyclone, or hurricane.

Actually, the term “hurricane” is used only for tropical cyclones in the Atlantic and the Northeast Pacific (east of the International Date Line). A tropical cyclone in the Northwest Pacific is called a typhoon, while a tropical cyclone in the Southwest Pacific or Indian Ocean is called a cyclone.

Hurricanes can form over a period of several days to a week, or in as fast as a day. Both Hurricane Wilma in 2005 and Hurricane Patricia in 2015 formed in a day’s time; Patricia’s formation was especially remarkable because it formed in the northeast Pacific Ocean.

As long as the storm is over water, it can continue to grow in strength. Hurricane Katrina was able to grow to Category 5 strength because it was stalled from moving by a large high pressure system (anticyclone) over the Gulf of Mexico, which funneled more air into it.

Once a hurricane makes landfall, it loses the energy from the warm ocean waters that had previously fed it. The storm can still be quite dangerous, however, particularly if it was a Category 3 or stronger hurricane at the time it made landfall. The strongest hurricane to date to make landfall was Hurricane Patricia, which reached Category 5 status on 22 October 2015 before reaching the Mexican coast. Although it had weakened considerably at the time it reached the coast, it was still classified as the strongest Pacific storm to make landfall. (Prior to its weakening, there were concerns that it would sweep across land and reach the Gulf of Mexico, where it would be reinvigorated by the waters of the gulf.)

When Do Hurricanes Form?

According to the National Hurricane Center, hurricane season begins on 1 June 1 in the Atlantic Ocean and 15 May in the eastern half of the Pacific. Both seasons end 30 November. These dates were determined by the center’s forecasters in 1965. Typhoon season in the Northwest Pacific goes from April through December, while cyclone season in the Southwest Pacific goes from November to April. (Remember that seasons in the Southern Hemisphere run six months opposite those of the Northern Hemisphere.)

It is possible for hurricanes to form before or after these dates, however; the last tropical storm to form in 2005 formed on 30 December of that year and dissipated 6 January of the following year.

Over the last 30 years, there has been an average of 12 Atlantic named storms per year, six of which become hurricanes and three of those major hurricanes. The 2015 season sported only 11 storms, with Tropical Storm Kate closing out the season. Only two of those storms became hurricanes, matching the record set in 1982 and tied in 2013.

There is no correlation between the number of hurricanes in a given year and their severity. In 2014, there were only eight named storms, but six of them achieved hurricane strength. The Outer Banks were menaced by Hurricane Arthur, the strongest hurricane at landfall for the previous six years, and Bermuda was hit by two successive hurricanes, Fay and Gonzalo.

What Kinds of Damage Do Hurricanes Cause?

Although hurricanes can and do cause damage at sea to ships unfortunate enough to be engulfed in them, they are most noted for the damage they cause on making landfall. There are five ways hurricanes cause damage on land:

  • Strong winds. As noted, hurricanes are rated according to the strength of the winds they produce. These winds can uproot trees, flip cars, capsize boats, demolish buildings, and scoop up and fling debris at anything within range.
  • Storm surges. The combination of low pressure and high winds creates a bulge in the water level that is pushed to the shore by the winds blowing to the right of the storm’s path. The storm surge height can be anywhere from 3 to 25 feet (1 to 5 meters) and, depending on the lay of the land, can reach as far inland as a mile or two. Storm surges can push cars and boats inland or pull them out to sea and can flood low-lying areas for weeks.
  • Hurricanes are typically accompanied by heavy rainfall, which can lead to flooding. Flash floods of 3 feet (1 meter) of rain in a few days are possible, as is long-term flooding. Furthermore, increased rainfall is possible a considerable distance from where the hurricane makes landfall. Hurricane Opal, which made landfall in the Florida Panhandle in 1995, moved as far inland as central Alabama, dumping 6 to 8 inches (15 to 20 cm) of rain at various locations throughout the state, and 6.5 inches (16 cm) miles away in Atlanta, Georgia. Likewise, Hurricane Katrina was only downgraded to a tropical storm when it reached Meridian, Mississippi and, reduced to a remnant low pressure system, reached the Great Lakes before being absorbed by a frontal zone. (For more information on dealing with flooding, see our blog entry at http://402webpage.com/planning-for-emergencies-floods-second-of-a-series/.)
  • Tornadoes often form within the eye wall or spiral bands of a hurricane and can split off from the hurricane when it makes landfall. A number of tornadoes were spun off of or spawned by Hurricane Celia when it made landfall in Texas in 1970. (The hurricane also spawned a number of microbursts and downbursts, which caused the most damage near where Celia made landfall.) These twisters can be masked by the heavy rainfall that accompanies a hurricane, although they can be spotted by radar. (For more information on dealing with tornadoes, see our blog entry at http://402webpage.com/disaster-planning-for-emergencies-tornadoes-first-of-a-series/.)
  • Rip tides. Rip tides can be caused in part by the strong winds and storm surges of a hurricane, or by the wind and wave action of a hurricane still some distance from shore. Incoming waves scoop up sediment from the sea floor and deposit it as underwater sandbars near the shore. The water continues to build up between the shore and the sandbar, until finally the pressure ruptures the sandbar, creating a rip tide where the water rushes out to sea. Rip tides are strong enough that trying to swim against them is taking your life in your hands, but narrow enough that you can swim perpendicular to the current until you no longer feel it and then swim to shore.

3What Is The Difference Between a Hurricane Watch and a Warning?

Severe weather alerts are divided into watches and warnings. A watch is issued when severe weather conditions are predicted to occur. A hurricane watch is issued when conditions for are favorable within the next 48 hours.

A warning is usually issued when severe weather is occurring or imminent. In the case of hurricanes, a hurricane warning is issued if a hurricane is expected in the next 36 hours.

If either a watch or warning is issued, keep abreast of developments through a NOAA weather radio or through commercial radio or television.

How Can I Prepare Beforehand?

When traveling

Register with the State Department if traveling outside the United States. If you are traveling to a hurricane-prone area outside the United States, registering with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate through the State Department’s travel registration website (https://step/state.gov/step) will allow the embassy or consulate to contact you if an emergency arises. However, in most cases local authorities will bear the responsibility for your welfare, and you should follow their instructions on safety, security, and evacuation.

At home

Before hurricane season begins

Keep your trees trimmed. Remove any branches that have the potential of falling onto your house if a storm hits, as these would most likely be broken by high winds.

Make sure gutters and downspouts are ready. Secure any loose gutters or downspouts, and clean the debris from your gutters.

Reinforce possible weak spots. This includes not just the roof, but windows, doors, and garage doors.

Designate a friend or family member who lives in another state or area as a point of contact in the event you should become displaced.

When a hurricane watch or warning is declared

Monitor weather conditions closely. As conditions worsen, listen to either your local news or to a NOAA (National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, the parent organization of the National Weather Service) weather radio for more information. You can also receive weather information from commercial radio and television broadcasts from stations that are part of the Emergency Alert System (EAS).

Review your options for keeping in touch if you lose power. Options include phoning, texting, emailing or using social media. Texting may be best, as phone lines are often overloaded after a storm.

Review your evacuation plan with your family.

Get your car ready in case you have to evacuate. Fill the gas tank and put in a set of emergency supplies and a change of clothes.

Assemble an emergency kit. This kit should be kept in your designated safe room or shelter or kept near it so precious time is not lost. FEMA (http://www.ready.gov/kit), the American Red Cross (http://www.redcross.org/prepare/location/home-family/get-kit) and others recommend different supplies to be put in your emergency kit, including:

  • One gallon of water per person per day for at least three days (for both drinking and washing)
  • Food (non-perishable) for three days
  • Can opener for food
  • Mess kits (plates, cups and eating utensils)
  • Radio with extra batteries (or a hand-crank       radio)
  • Flashlight with extra batteries (or a hand-crank flashlight)
  • First aid kit, including antiseptics, medicine and bandages
  • Prescription medicines
  • Whistle (to use if you are unable to call loud enough for help)
  • Matches, in a waterproof container
  • Blankets
  • Change of clothes
  • Personal hygiene items
  • Bags, or other items, for makeshift toilets
  • Cell phone with charger, inverter or solar charger
  • Phone apps useful for emergencies, including weather alerts and social media to call for help
  • Phone numbers of friends and family on paper, in case your cell phone has no power
  • Phone numbers of the utilities and emergency assistance
  • A dust mask of at least rating N95 for each person, in case the air is too hard to breathe from dust or fire. You can find these at hardware or home improvement stores, as well as through online vendors.
  • Plastic sheeting to keep dry and make shelter
  • Duct tape to help make shelter with the plastic sheeting, if needed
  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities or bang pipes for help
  • Paper, pens, pencils
  • Trash bags
  • Wipes
  • Extra cash

If you have children, include:

  • Infant formula and water for mix, if needed
  • Diapers, ointment and baby cleaning supplies
  • Water and food for children for at least three days
  • Books, games, amusements and toys that do not require electricity

If you have pets, include:

  • Pet food and water for at least three days
  • Pet carriers
  • Collars and leashes
  • Favorite toy
  • Litter box or newspapers

Putting your emergency supplies in backpacks or duffel bags is a good idea to keep them safe, easy to carry and close at hand. Most of these supplies work for other emergencies as well.

Note: The three-day supply is recommended for short-term survival conditions, if an evacuation is planned within 72 hours. If you anticipate longer emergency conditions, the American Red Cross recommends having a two-week supply of non-perishable food and water.

18 to 36 hours from landfall

Bookmark your city or county website for ready access to storm updates and emergency instructions.

Remove any prospective projectiles. Bring in lightweight items like patio furniture and garbage cans and anchor items too heavy to bring inside, such as propane tanks. Trim or remove any trees that may be close enough to your house to fall on it.

Cover your windows. Permanent storm shutters are best, but you can also nail 5/8-inch marine grade plywood over your windows.

6 to 18 hours from landfall

Get updates on the storm every half hour. Keep doing this even when the storm is less than 6 hours away.

Charge your cell phone battery.

6 hours from landfall

Let friends and family know where you’ll be. If your area isn’t chosen to be evacuated, plan on staying where you are.

Close your storm shutters. Stay away from the windows, as flying glass can injure you.

Turn your refrigerator and freezer to their coldest setting and open only when necessary. This will keep your food colder longer if you should lose power. You should keep thermometers in your refrigerator and freezer to monitor the temperature inside them.

What Should I Do After the Hurricane is Over?

Get updates and instructions from local officials.

Check in with family and friends. Texting is best, followed by using social media.

Wait until the authorities tell you it’s safe to return home. The death toll for Hurricane Katrina was as large as it was, in part, because many people did not follow instructions from the authorities.

Look out for debris and downed power lines.

Avoid walking or driving through flood waters. The water may conceal downed power lines, and water deeper than 6 inches can knock you down. Fast-moving water can sweep your car away.

Document any damage for your insurer. Support any written statements with photographs where possible.

Make temporary repairs to prevent further damage, such as putting a tarp over your damaged roof.

Resources and References

Hurricane formation

http://spaceplace.nasa.gov/hurricanes/en/

http://www.windows2universe.org/earth/Atmosphere/hurricane/formation.html

Weather alerts

National Weather Service active weather alert map: http://www.weather.gov/

Weather Underground: http://www.wunderground.com/hurricane/

Levee safety

Levee safety: http://www.damsafety.org/news/?p=625df143-13db-4eea-9b40-026fbb93ee78

Flood insurance resources

National Flood Insurance Program (FloodSmart.gov): https://www.floodsmart.gov/floodsmart/

Understanding the cost of flooding: https://www.floodsmart.gov/floodsmart/pages/flooding_flood_risks/the_cost_of_flooding.jsp

The FEMA Flood Map Service Center: https://msc.fema.gov/portal,

How to read flood maps: http://www.fema.gov/media-library/assets/documents/7984?id=2324, https://www.floodsmart.gov/floodsmart/pages/flooding_flood_risks/understanding_flood_maps.jsp

Government disaster programs (FEMA)

State Directory of CERT (Community Emergency Response Teams) Programs: http://www.citizencorps.fema.gov/cc/CertIndex.do?submitByState

Disaster Emergency Communications: https://www.fema.gov/disaster-emergency-communications

Preparing for the hurricane and after: http://www.ready.gov/hurricanes

Equipment and training

The American Red Cross Store: http://www.redcrossstore.org/home

Finding Your Local American Red Cross Chapter: http://www.redcross.org/find-your-local-chapter

Emergency communications

FEMA Family Communications Plan: http://www.fema.gov/media-library/assets/documents/34330

The American Red Cross Safe and Well Registry: http://www.redcross.org/find-help/contact-family/register-safe-listing

National Cyber Security Awareness Month

The full month of October is dedicated to Cyber Security Awareness in the US.

National Cyber Security Awareness Month began in October 2004 to help bring awareness to help Americans be safer online. It was a joint venture by the National Cyber Security Alliance and the Department of Homeland Security

You don’t have to look far to find in the news some spectacular and financially devastating hacks.

Some of the most recent famous ones were:

Anthem
AshleyMadison
(Premera) Blue Cross
Ebay
HomeDepot
JPMorgan
Lifelock
OPM
Sony
Target

Some of the reasons for hacking or breaching security are financial gain, bragging rights, recreation and social activism.

No matter what the reason, this can be devastating to individuals and companies when sensitive data, such as credit card numbers, social security numbers, names and address are released.

The Department of Homeland Security, DHS, has suggested different themes for different weeks. These are summarized below and punctuated with keystone events. For more detail and the event information, please go to http://www.dhs.gov/national-cyber-security-awareness-month

Week 1: General Cybersecurity Awareness: 5 Years of Stop.Think.Connect.™

October 1-2

This week instructs and reminds that everyone shares in the role of keeping things cybersafe. No matter what it is: avoiding opening an attachment, not replying to too-good-to-be-true emails, or not having virus protection programs installed on your computer, everyone not just specialists plays an important role in keeping everyone safe.  It is these click first without thinking behaviors that it is important to guard against.

To this end, this short week also spotlights the five years of work that “Stop.Think.Connect.” has done in trying to get people to do just that. For more info see https://www.stopthinkconnect.org

Week 2: Creating a Culture of Cybersecurity at Work

October 5-9

This week focuses on common threats for businesses and employees. Every business should have more than the traditional business plan components; it needs to have a cyber plan as well.

Week 3: Connected Communities: Staying Protected While Always Connected

October 12-16

This week focuses on mobile devices, social media and public places.  It is important to have protection installed on your mobile devices, not reveal important information on social media and be careful when using public computers or public wifi

Week 4: Your Evolving Digital Life

October 19-23

Highlights the “smart world” we live in and the importance of educating all citizens on cybersecurity as more and more of the devices we use – from phones and tablets to homes and medical devices – become connected to the Internet. Week four provides a current snapshot of technology and where we envision technology taking us in the future.

Keystone Event: NASDAQ Closing Bell Ceremony & Luncheon, New York, NY

Week 5: Building the Next Generation of Cyber Professionals

October 26-30

The last week looks forward into the future to emphasize the need for a cybersecurity savvy workforce, meeting the demand for specialists and ensuring that children are cyber-safe and cyber-savvy as well.

Resources:

http://www.bloomberg.com/graphics/2014-data-breaches

http://www.dhs.gov/national-cyber-security-awareness-month

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-cybersecurity-ibm-idUSKBN0OC0ZE20150527

http://www.dhs.gov/stopthinkconnect-toolkit

https://www.staysafeonline.org/ncsam/about/history-of-ncsam

https://www.staysafeonline.org/ncsam/about/history-of-ncsam#sthash.Iu6CEX3d.dpuf

https://www.stopthinkconnect.org

 

Social Engineering Expert Frank Abagnale Jr. Speaks on Identity Theft

Frank Abagnale Jr. spoke in Omaha, Nebraska, at the Jewish Comunity Center on 11
September.


This was the first time Mr. Abagnale addressed an audience of consumers. Normally, he addresses business leaders and others. He began by first visiting the overflow room and then
speaking at the auditorium where he was joined by Nebraska Attorney General Doug Petersen and BBB President Jim Hegarty.

Mr. Abagnale began his presentation by telling us part of his life’s story. He was in school one day, oblivious of what was to come, and taken out by one of the religous brothers from the school. Then he was whisked away to the courthouse with no information on what was to come on the ride over. At the courthouse, he met with a judge who told him, to his surprise, that his parents were getting divorced and that he had to choose which parent to live with. He could not choose so he fled and did not return.

After this, he took different odd jobs, but they would not pay him much or fairly because he was a child, even though his work was good. Unable to support himself in this manner, he altered his ID to make himself older. With mature looks and mannerisms to match, he easily passed as an adult. This was the start down the slippery slope of which he later found himself able to forge credentials and social engineer his way to get fraudulent checks cashed and get free air travel by posing as an airline pilot.

Mr. Abagnale’s exploits have been turned into a Broadway musical and a movie, Catch Me if You
Can, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks.

Social engineering uses different social persuasive skills and sometimes forged
items, props, and identities with the purpose of theft or getting access to higher targets. It is generally the method in which most hackers are able to gain access to sensitive areas. No matter how you harden your systems or what security protocols you put in place, it can all be undone with one human mistake to download or give private information to another that someone believes is trustworthy or authorized to have the information.

Also present and speaking were Nebraska State Attorney General Doug Petersen and BBB President Jim Hegarty. Both were also present in a panel to answer questions from the audience.

panel254

Vacation Safety Tips

August is a month when many people go on vacation.

Here are some vacation safety tips:

Mail
Contact the Post Office to place a hold on your mail.  This can be done online at https://holdmail.usps.com/holdmail

Police
Many police departments have a service where you can let them know that you will be gone and they will send a patrol out to drive by your house while you are gone.

Lights
Criminals often watch houses and look for changes in patterns, including lights. You can get timers and set your different room lights to the times they are usually on.

Radio
Some people like to leave a radio on. You can connect your radio to a timer as well.

Pet Sitters
If you have pets, make sure you have a trusted pet sitter tend your pets while you are gone, if you are not boarding them. If you hire one, you can check to see if they are bonded and get references.

Pipes
Make sure that  your thermostat is set above freezing to keep your house and pipes warm. Freezing pipes are costly and destructive.

Social Media
Don’t announce on social media that you are leaving for a picture or post pictures during your vacation. Criminals are looking for this information.

Emergency Apps

There are many useful apps you can get on your phone to help prepare in advance for emergencies. We have listed some. Let us know which ones you like or think can be improved.

1. Twitter

Twitter is very powerful and can be used in a variety of emergency situations from storms, car accidents, earthquakes and kidnappings.

Create your own Twitter account to reach the world quickly and make a private one also for your family and friends to share information.

https://twitter.com

2. Facebook

You can do the same as with Twitter. As with any social media, control who can see what and do not broadcast that you are leaving town to all your followers or “friends.” You may wish to create a closed group that will not show up in searches for this. Watch for changes in Facebook’s privacy settings and policy, as these could compromise your security.

https://www.facebook.com

3. FEMA

FEMA’s app provides the following:

  • Tips on surviving natural disasters
  • Emergency checklists
  • Meeting locations
  • National Weather Service alerts
  • Shelter Locations
  • Disaster Recovery Centers
  • How to apply for assistance
  • Disaster Reporter

https://www.fema.gov/mobile-app

4. (Red Cross) First Aid

You can find a first aid app for Android here:
http://www.redcross.org/mobile-apps/first-aid-app

This also includes tips for natural disasters.

5. Media Severe Weather Alerts

Many TV and radio stations have apps that you can sign up for.

6. Regional Government Alerts

Many cities and counties have Facebook or Twitter accounts especially designated for alerting the public in emergencies. Some cities such as Papillion, Nebraska, have these also coordinated with robocalls to alert the public.

7. Emergency Alerts-Android

This includes severe weather and Amber Alerts.
http://www.androidcentral.com/amber-alerts-and-android-what-you-need-know

8. WISER

WISER, Wireless Information System for Emergency Responders, helps you identify dangerous chemicals and related information. Used by first responders and others.

http://wiser.nlm.nih.gov/choose_platform.html

9. Weather Pilot

A great resource for pilots. It includes wind speeds and other important information.
https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.bnolan&hl=en

Warning: Some police stations have access cell phones with loud warnings for such things as active shooters in an area. If you happen to be in that area, you may not want a loud alert giving away your position. Check with your phone carrier and local authorities to make sure this feature is set to what you feel is best. Some may have an opt-in choice. Others there may be an opt-out choice. Hopefully, more places will let you choose how to be alerted, for example, a text instead of a loud noise.

What are your favorite weather and emergency apps? Do you have any that we missed? Please comment and let us know.

Planning for Emergencies: Hail (Third of a Series)

People are the most important part of any business. When preparing or reviewing your business plan regularly, make sure you have emergency plans also in place for you, your people and your business.

In the third part of our series, we will continue to give you information on protecting yourself and others for different situations. The topic of our third blog covers a threat that accompanies other forms of severe weather, such as severe thunderstorms and tornadoes. That threat is hail.

Severe Weather Awareness: Hailstorms

On the afternoon of June 3, 2014, a line of severe thunderstorms hit eastern Nebraska and western Iowa, accompanied by hail the size of golf and tennis balls. One of the hardest hit cities was Blair, Nebraska in Washington County, 25 miles north of Omaha. A number of downtown businesses were hit hard; a dozen people were injured outside the city’s Walmart. Hardest hit was Woodhouse Ford, with an estimated $162 million in total damage to more than 4,500 cars, ranging from dents in the hoods and roofs to bashed-in front and rear windshields and side windows. A number of houses had their siding and roofs shredded as though by heavy machine gun fire.

On 10 April 2001, a hailstorm traveled over Interstate 70 from eastern Kansas to southeastern Illinois, hammering the St. Louis area and producing a record $2.4 billion in damage, adjusted for inflation to 2010 dollars. The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) estimates that hailstorms cause, on average, $1 billion each year in property damage.

The number of insurance claims for hail damage has climbed steadily at the beginning of this decade. According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, 467,202 hail damage claims were filed in 2010. This number increased to 689,267 in 2011, a 48 percent increase, and to 861,597 in 2012, a 25 percent increase over the preceding year but an 84 percent increase from two years prior,

What is Hail and How Does It Form?

Hail is, essentially, frozen rain. Rain occurs when droplets of water inside clouds become too heavy to stay aloft or when ice crystals/snowflakes fall into warmer air that melts them back into liquid form. However, when storms have severe updrafts, the wind intercepts the ice crystals before they can melt and sends them back up to the top of the cloud, where more moisture condenses over them and freezes, making the ice pellet larger. The stronger the updraft, the more times the ice pellets are caught and blown upward to be coated with still more layers of ice.

Depending on how high in the cloud the ice pellet is blown, the new layer may either be a slowly frozen clear layer without air bubbles or a quick-frozen cloudy later pockmarked with bubbles of air that didn’t have time to escape. It’s possible to determine how many times the hailstone was caught up before finally falling to the ground by cutting it open and counting the rings formed by the layers of ice.

This process repeats until the ice is too heavy to be carried back up into the cloud or until a downdraft shunts it earthward. In either case, it falls as hail. The stones are so large and heavy they don’t have time to melt back into rain.

Hail generally forms in paths called swaths, which can range from a radius of a few acres to areas 10 miles wide and 100 miles long. In these swaths, hail can fall so densely that it forms drifts like snow and, like heavy snowfall, a snowplow is necessary to remove it.

When Is Hail Most Likely to Form?

In the United States, hail forms principally during the months of April through July, with May and June the two months where hail falls the most: in 2013, 1,376 hailstorms were reported in the U.S. in May and 1,145 in June. However, hail can fall outside this period as well: on 23 March, 2007, the Clovis-Roswell-Logan area in New Mexico was hit with a combination of tornadoes and hail that did $16.5 million in reported damage, while on 29 September, 2014 the Metropolitan Denver area was hit with a hailstorm that did $213.3 million in damage.

What Kinds of Damage Does Hail Cause?

Hail can cause billions of dollars in damage to buildings and vehicles. According to Farmers Insurance Company, hail accounts for 86 percent of damage claims for cars in Nebraska and 57 percent of auto damage claims in Iowa. Hail damage is the reason for 65 percent of home damage claims in Nebraska and 32 percent of Iowa home damage claims. Farmers are particularly vulnerable to hail damage, not just for their homes, barns and silos, but also their crops. Pea-sized hail can rip through a vegetable garden or field of grain, while a tennis ball-sized hailstone (diameter 2.5 inches) can hit the ground, a roof or car at speeds over 100 mph.

What Types and Sizes of Hail Are There?

Hail is only one form of frozen precipitation; snow is another. In between are two other kinds: sleet and graupel.

Sleet is what ice pellets are called when they reach the ground without being caught up by the wind to have more layers added. They are smaller than hailstones and often translucent. They are hard enough to bounce upon hitting the ground. (In the United Kingdom, Ireland and most countries that belong to the British Commonwealth of Nations, sleet also refers to a mixture of rain and snow.) Sleet most commonly forms in the coldest areas of a band of freezing rain, usually the northernmost parts.

Graupel is formed in the same manner as hail, when updrafts catch frozen precipitation and lift it up repeatedly to be coated by layers of ice. However, while the core of a hailstone is an ice pellet, the core of a piece of graupel is a snowflake. Accordingly, graupel is both softer and, as a rule, smaller than hail.

Smaller hailstones are often compared to peas, coins and golf balls, while larger hailstones are similar in size to oranges, grapefruit, tennis balls, baseballs and softballs.

Where Is Hail Most Likely to Form?

Hail often is formed during severe thunderstorms, which feature both the updrafts that allow ice pellets to be caught up and built up into hailstones and downdrafts that can cause damage as straight line winds and microbursts or, if the winds begin to rotate, tornadoes. The more severe the storm, the stronger the updraft, and the stronger the updraft, the larger the hailstone can be.

(The National Weather Service defines a severe thunderstorm as having either hail of 3/4 inch, or dime-sized, in diameter or greater, damaging winds of 58 mph, or 50 knots, or greater – or both. Neither the presence of lightning nor how frequently it is striking has any bearing on whether or not a thunderstorm is classified as severe.)

Some severe thunderstorms, particularly those bearing hail, may turn the sky greenish. A number of scientists believe this is due to the water and ice within the storm cloud scattering wavelengths of light in the green portion of the visible spectrum, much the way the nitrogen in Earth’s atmosphere normally scatters the blue wavelengths of light to make the sky appear blue during a sunny day.

Although hail can form anywhere strong thunderstorms can hit (and Florida is the state where the most thunderstorms form), hail usually is most likely to form in thunderstorms over the Great Plains, and particularly in the states of Colorado, Nebraska and Wyoming, with the area where the three states meet dubbed “Hail Alley.” This is because the point at which the air is at the freezing point of water (32 degrees Fahrenheit) is closer to the ground here than at sea level. Other areas of the world where similar conditions occur include Russia, China, India, and the northern part of Italy. However, Colorado placed fourth in states filing the most hail damage claims in the first three years of this decade, with 118,118 according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), after Texas (320,823), Missouri (138,857 and Kansas (126,490).

What Is The Difference Between a Severe Thunderstorm Watch and a Warning?             

Severe weather alerts are divided into watches and warnings. A watch is issued when severe weather conditions are predicted to occur. A severe thunderstorm watch is issued when conditions for thunderstorms are favorable. A severe thunderstorm watch typically covers a large area and may encompass part or all of several states. It usually lasts anywhere from four to eight hours.

A warning is occurred when severe weather is occurring or imminent. A severe thunderstorm warning is issued for an area where a severe thunderstorm is already happening or will happen within minutes. A warning usually lasts for one hour and does not require a severe thunderstorm watch to be issued prior to the warning.

A severe thunderstorm warning may be issued in conjunction with a flash flood warning if torrential rains are present or in conjunction with a special marine warning in coastal areas. If tornadoes are spotted in the area covered by the severe thunderstorm warning, it will be superseded by a tornado warning.

If either a watch or warning is issued, keep abreast of developments through a NOAA weather radio or through commercial radio or television.

How Can I Prepare Beforehand?

You can prepare for hail in two ways, by taking certain ongoing steps when the weather is good and other steps when the threat of severe weather looms closer.

Ongoing steps to prepare

Keep your trees trimmed. Remove any branches that have the potential of falling onto your house if a storm hits, as these would most likely be broken by hail or high winds.

Inspect your roof for potential trouble spots and fix them as they occur. Worn or missing shingles should be replaced immediately, and if your roof is near the end of the lifespan for its shingles, consider replacing it before hail season starts. This will reduce the possibility of hail damage. Look for impact-resistant roof materials that meet Underwriters Laboratories (UL) Standard 2218. Such materials are divided into four classifications, with Class 1 providing the lowest level of resistance and Class 4 the highest. Some states may provide tax credits for installing a UL-approved impact resistant roof; check with your state’s Department of Insurance or equivalent agency.

Check with your insurance agent to make sure you’re covered against damage from hail. You should be covered for the roof for your house or business building, as well as having comprehensive coverage for your principal vehicle(s). You may, however, have a higher deductible for hail damage than for damage caused by other means.

Monitor conditions for severe weather. You should have a NOAA weather radio; if not, pay attention to commercial broadcast radio and television to monitor conditions.

When a hailstorm is approaching

If you are at home or at work when a hailstorm is approaching, take the following steps:

  • Put all vehicles and expensive outdoor items under cover, preferably a garage.
  • Put large items (garbage cans, patio furniture) under cover, preferably a garage or shed.
  • Bring all outdoor pets indoors; shelter farm animals in barns.
  • Close all windows and doors.
  • Close the curtains over windows to block flying glass.

You do not have to go down the basement for hail, unless there is also a tornado warning; however, you do need to stay away from windows and skylights, which may be shattered upon impact by hailstones. If the only place away from panes of glass is in your tornado shelter, then you should go there. (See the previous posts in this series for items that should be part of your shelter.)

Once the hailstorm hits, do NOT go outside to rescue any stray animals or items. Although, as noted previously, you are not likely to be killed by being struck by hail, it can happen if the hailstone is large enough. Your property is not worth risking your life for.

If you are in a car or truck when a hailstorm is approaching, take the following steps:

  • Stay inside your vehicle. Hailstones fall fast enough to cause considerable injury, particularly when large.
  • Approach intersections cautiously. Treat any traffic signals as potential stop signs.
  • Don’t drive through standing water. You can read more about the hazards of trying to drive through floodwater on our previous blog at http://402webpage.com/planning-for-emergencies-floods-second-of-a-series/
  • Avoid downed power lines.
  • Get to a safe place, away from traffic, and stop the car. You can take shelter in a covered parking garage or under a gas station awning. Avoid pulling into a ditch, to avoid being caught in rapidly rising water.
  • Turn on your emergency flashers to make your car more visible if forced to pull over where there is inadequate shelter.
  • Erie Insurance’s Eriesense.com website recommends you position your vehicle so the front windshield takes the brunt of the hail; it’s designed to withstand greater impacts than the rear windshield and side windows are.
  • Lie down, if possible, with your back to the windows. If you can get onto your vehicle floor, so much the better. If you have small children with you, cover their bodies with yours.
  • Cover yourself with a blanket, if available, to protect yourself from possible broken glass. If you cannot cover your entire body, shield your eyes with a cloth.

While taking the above steps will not guarantee your survival, they will greatly improve your chances of living to tell about it later. As always, use your best judgment.

What Should I Do After the Hailstorm is Over?

Assess the damage, wearing heavy shoes and thick, insulated gloves to protect yourself from broken glass, downed power lines and other hazards. (Avoid going into any areas where you know power lines are down.) Check your ground-level plants and shrubbery for signs of damage, as well as patio covers, screens and soft aluminum vents. If any of them show hail damage, your roof may be damaged as well. Also inspect your car for body dents and cracked or broken windshields, windows and mirrors.

Report the damage to your insurer as soon as possible. You should only need to provide a general description at this stage.

Make temporary repairs. Cover any holes in your roof or windows with plywood or tarps. Cover any holes or broken glass on your car’s windshields and windows and remove any loose broken glass from its interior. Move wet items to (relatively) dry ground. Clean what items you can. You may need the help of professionals to assist in the cleaning and patching process; they can be found by searching for “water damage restoration” or “contractors” online or in your telephone book. Save any receipts for your records.

Document your hail and other damage with photos, video, bills and receipts, as well as making a thorough list of what was damaged. Don’t throw out any damaged items until your insurer has helped you determine if the items are covered and how to proceed with their disposal and replacement.

Schedule permanent repairs with a licensed, bonded and insured local contractor. Your insurer may require you to wait to have the actual work performed until a claims assessor has visited you; however, contractors can be difficult to schedule after a storm hits, so you may wish to find and schedule a contractor contingent on your insurer’s approval. Allow only your claims assessor and the roofer you’ve selected onto your roof to minimize further damage.

Some things to note:

Choose a reputable roofer based in your area, if possible. While some out-of-town roofers are legitimate, a number of scammers have set up shop temporarily in areas where hail damage has occurred, collected homeowners’ money and then skipped town without finishing their work or paying suppliers.

Your roofer should have liability and workers compensation insurance in the event one of their workers is injured on the job or if they accidentally damage a neighbor’s property.

While your roofer may request a portion of the payment upfront, don’t make the final payment until you’ve had the work inspected and are satisfied with the quality.

You may use the opportunity to upgrade to better quality materials, such as replacing a fiberglass roof with a slate roof, but your insurer may only pay the replacement cost for materials of equal quality and require you to pay the difference for better quality materials. You should also consider the possibility of qualifying for a discount if you make certain upgrades, however, and determine whether you can recoup the added costs and how long it will take you to do so.

Resources and References:

Weather alerts

National Weather Service active weather alert map:
http://www.weather.gov

Interactive Hail Maps:
http://www.interactivehailmaps.com

Weather education and research

The National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL): Severe Weather 101:
http://www.nssl.noaa.gov/education/svrwx101

NSSL Hail Research page:
http://www.nssl.noaa.gov/research/hail

Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IIBHS) Hail Research Page:
http://www.disastersafety.org/hail

IIBHS: Disaster Safety Review issue highlighting hail research:
http://www.disastersafety.org/wp-content/uploads/dsr-vol3-2012_IBHS.pdf

Hail damage prevention

National Roofing Contractors Association: Smart Steps to Reduce Hailstorm Damage:
http://www.nrca.net/store/detail/impact-resistant-roofs-smart-steps-to-reduce-hailstorm-damage-steep-slope-roof-system-basics-/710

Government disaster programs (FEMA)

State Directory of CERT (Community Emergency Response Teams) Programs:
http://www.citizencorps.fema.gov/cc/CertIndex.do?submitByState

Disaster Emergency Communications:
https://www.fema.gov/disaster-emergency-communications

Equipment and training

The American Red Cross Store:
http://www.redcrossstore.org/home

Finding Your Local American Red Cross Chapter:
http://www.redcross.org/find-your-local-chapter

Emergency communications

FEMA Family Communications Plan:
http://www.fema.gov/media-library/assets/documents/34330

The American Red Cross Safe and Well Registry:
http://www.redcross.org/find-help/contact-family/register-safe-listing

 

 

Planning for Emergencies: Floods (Second of a Series)

People are the most important part of any business. When preparing or reviewing your business plan regularly, make sure you have emergency plans also in place for you, your people and your business.

In the second part of our series, we will continue to give you information on protecting yourself and others for different situations. Like our first blog, our second is a timely one for the Midwestern United States, this time covering the topic of floods.

Severe Weather Awareness: Preparing for Flooding

On May 6, 2015, a 20-mile wide corridor of southeast Nebraska was hit by a series of heavy rains, many following a multi-county tornado warning that included a dozen twister sightings. The accompanying rains ranged in depth from 3 to 7 inches in Lancaster County, closing US Highway 77 south of the state capital, Lincoln, and two major thoroughfares in town. Ten-inch rains in Hebron and Deshler in Thayer County blocked access to Hebron’s hospital and forced the evacuation of a Deshler nursing home.

Heavy rains forced Salt Creek to the limit of its banks and the Little Blue and Big Blue Rivers out of theirs, leading to flooded areas downstream from where the rains originally fell. DeWitt in Saline County and Fairbury in Thayer County were both evacuated, in whole or in part, even though Fairbury had received only half an inch of rain, as were portions of Lincoln, Steele City, and Deshler. Fairbury resident Betty McMullen, 86, was found dead in her basement Friday, May 8, after floodwaters had receded enough for emergency workers to reach her home and pump water out.

In contrast, 3 inches of rain in Sarpy County led to the temporary closure of 36th Street between Highway 370 and Cornhusker Road.

Damage estimates from the 2015 flood are not yet available, but a similarly devastating flood occurred along the Republican River on Memorial Day of 1935, killing 94 people and causing $26 million in 1935 dollars ($440 million in today’s dollars) worth of damage.

When Can Floods Form?

Floods are typically associated with heavy rainfall accompanying severe thunderstorms and tornadoes, as well as from tropical storms and hurricanes hitting coastal areas. Inland floods of this nature often occur from spring into early summer, while coastal areas subject to flooding associated with tropical storms can be hit from mid-May to the end of November. Heavy rainfall is not the only cause of flooding, however.

Floods can also be caused by the failure of a dam or levee to hold water back. The Johnstown, Pennsylvania flood of 1889 was caused by the failure of the South Fork Dam, killing 2,200 people. The June 5, 1976 failure of Teton Dam in Idaho killed 11 people and caused over $1 billion in property damage. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina, on its sweep through New Orleans, caused 50 levees to fail, flooding 100,000 homes and businesses in the city.

Floods can also occur during late winter and early spring when ice on rivers begins to break up. The ice pieces can form temporary dams, or jams, that trap water until its weight and pressure break up the jam, releasing the water suddenly and often catastrophically. (It’s sometimes possible for an ice jam to break, re-form downstream, and break again several times over.)

What Areas Are Prone to Flooding?

Smooth, low-lying areas near streams are especially prone to flooding. These areas are known as floodplains. Statistically, a given floodplain is flooded once every 2 1/3 years, although individual floodplains are rated according to their anticipated likelihood of being inundated by floodwaters. A 100-year floodplain is one that is expected to flood no more often than every 100 years; a flood capable of flooding such an area is dubbed a “100-year flood.” Other time increments commonly used include 5 years, 20 years, 50 years, and 500 years.

Man-made development in a floodplain can have an impact on how susceptible the area is to being flooded. Because water is important to agriculture and flat lands are easy to develop, many floodplains have been either plowed or built on, affecting the rates at which water covers the land and drains off afterward. Furthermore, wildfires in certain parts of the country have destroyed trees and grasses that absorb water and anchor the soil in place, so that when such areas are flooded, the loose soil is washed away in a mudflow.

To compensate for the increased risk of flooding, structures such as dams and levees may be erected to hold water back. Other methods for controlling runoff include diversion canals, which divert water to holding ponds or natural bodies of water that can better contain the floodwaters; tide gates, which close to block incoming high tides from flooding lowlands around the mouths of rivers; and self-closing flood barriers. Last-minute stopgaps include using sandbags to shore up levees and temporary perimeter barriers consisting of two water-filled tubes held within a larger third tube. These barriers can be filled with floodwaters on-site and were used in an attempt to prevent the Fort Calhoun Nuclear Generating Station from being flooded in 2011. (The effort ultimately failed when the barrier was punctured by a skid loader.)

When the systems function, they can prevent damage. Present estimates are that flood control structures in Jefferson, Saline, and Thayer Counties may have reduced the flood damage in southeast Nebraska by up to $3 million, according to a report from the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.

How Fast Can Flooding Occur?

How fast flooding occurs depends on how much water is released and how fast. Overland flooding can occur over the course of a day in a steady downpour, or a rapid rain or barrier break can cause flooding within minutes. A flood that occurs within 6 hours of the release of water is called a flash flood.

How Can I Prepare Beforehand?

Build smart. Avoid building in a floodplain unless you elevate and reinforce your structure. Furnaces, water heaters, and electric panels should all be elevated, and you may want to consider installing check valves to keep floodwaters from backing up through your drains and applying sealants to basement walls to waterproof them.

Consider flood insurance. Most homeowners’ insurance and standard business insurance policies do not include coverage for flood damage. You can assess your flooding risk with a flood-hazard map (located on the FEMA website at https://msc.fema.gov/portal, and consider your need for flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program (FloodSmart.gov) at https://www.floodsmart.gov/floodsmart .

Keep your vehicle well-maintained. If you should have to evacuate because of flooding, it’s important to keep your vehicle in top condition. Keep your gas tank filled, and make sure your tires have sufficient tread to grip the road and are rotated and balanced on a regular basis.

Monitor weather conditions closely. As conditions worsen, listen to either your local news or to a NOAA (National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, the parent organization of the National Weather Service) weather radio for more information. You can also receive weather information from commercial radio and television broadcasts from stations that are part of the Emergency Alert System (EAS).

Assemble an emergency kit. This kit should be kept in your designated safe room or shelter or kept near it so precious time is not lost. FEMA (http://www.ready.gov/kit), the American Red Cross (http://www.redcross.org/prepare/location/home-family/get-kit) and others recommend different supplies to be put in your emergency kit, including:

  • One gallon of water per person per day for at least three days (for both drinking and washing)
  • Food (non-perishable) for three days
  • Can opener for food
  • Mess kits (plates, cups and eating utensils)
  • Radio with extra batteries (or a hand-crank  radio)
  • Flashlight with extra batteries (or a hand-crank flashlight)
  • First aid kit, including antiseptics, medicine and bandages
  • Prescription medicines
  • Whistle (to use if you are unable to call loud enough for help)
  • Matches, in a waterproof container
  • Blankets
  • Change of clothes
  • Personal hygiene items
  • Bags, or other items, for makeshift toilets
  • Cell phone with charger, inverter or solar charger
  • Phone apps useful for emergencies, including weather alerts and social media to call for help
  • Phone numbers of friends and family on paper, in case your cell phone has no power
  • Phone numbers of the utilities and emergency assistance
  • A dust mask of at least rating N95 for each person, in case the air is too hard to breathe from dust or fire. You can find these at hardware or home improvement stores, as well as through online vendors.
  • Plastic sheeting to keep dry and make shelter
  • Duct tape to help make shelter with the plastic sheeting, if needed
  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities or bang pipes for help
  • Paper, pens, pencils
  • Trash bags
  • Wipes
  • Extra cash

If you have children, include:

  • Infant formula and water for mix, if needed
  • Diapers, ointment and baby cleaning supplies
  • Water and food for children for at least three days
  • Books, games, amusements and toys that do not require electricity

If you have pets, include:

  • Pet food and water for at least three days
  • Pet carriers
  • Collars and leashes
  • Favorite toy
  • Litter box or newspapers

Putting your emergency supplies in backpacks or duffel bags is a good idea to keep them safe, easy to carry and close at hand. (This is especially helpful if you need to evacuate.) Most of these supplies work for other emergencies as well.

Note: The three-day supply is recommended for short-term survival conditions, if an evacuation is planned within 72 hours. If you anticipate longer emergency conditions, the American Red Cross recommends having a two-week supply of non-perishable food and water.

Other ways to plan ahead

Designate a friend or family member who lives in another state or area as a point of contact in an emergency if you should become displaced.

  • Instruct everyone on where to meet if they should somehow get separated as a result of the storm.
  • Take CPR classes so you can assist an injured person if necessary.
  • Contact your local chapter of the American Red Cross to learn more.

What to do if you have to evacuate

If you have to evacuate because of rising floodwaters, make sure your home is secure.

  • Move essential items to upper floors.
  • Turn off utilities at their main switches or valves.
  • Disconnect electrical appliances. (Do not touch electrical appliances, however, if you’re wet or standing in water.)

On leaving, be sure to avoid walking or driving through flowing water. Some factors to consider:

  • Six inches of fast-moving water are enough to knock you off your feet. If the water is deeper than ankle height and moving, avoid it. If the water is standing, use a walking stick to verify that the ground underneath the water is safe to walk on.
  • A few inches of water are enough to cause your vehicle to hydroplane (lose contact with the road surface). If there is standing water on the road, slow your vehicle to 35mph or less. Do not drive with your cruise control engaged. If your car should hydroplane, immediately take your foot off the accelerator and gently turn your steering wheel in the direction your vehicle is skidding until you feel the tires reconnect with the pavement.
  • Two feet of running water are enough to sweep away most vehicles. If you see moving water ahead of you, turn around and find another route of escape. Remember, “Turn around; don’t drown.”
  • If you’re caught on a flooded road and waters are rising rapidly around you, leave the vehicle for higher ground. If your vehicle is caught in running water before you can safely exit it, stay with it; if water should enter the vehicle, take refuge on the vehicle roof.

What Is The Difference Between a Flood Watch and a Flood Warning?

Severe weather alerts are divided into watches and warnings. A watch is issued when severe weather conditions are predicted to occur. A flood watch is issued when conditions for flooding are favorable. If flooding is particularly likely, but considered to be more of a nuisance than a hardship, a flood advisory is issued.

A warning is occurred when severe weather is occurring or imminent. A flood warning is issued for an area where flooding is already happening or will happen very soon. You should be ready to evacuate the area if called upon to do so.

If the anticipated flooding has the potential be especially sudden or violent, the alert is issued as a flash flood watch or warning. In the event of a flash flood warning, you must evacuate to higher ground immediately. Do NOT wait for instructions to do so.

If either a watch or warning is issued, keep abreast of developments through a NOAA weather radio or through commercial radio or television.

What Do I Do Once the Floodwaters Subside?

  • Don’t return home until authorities have declared the area safe.
  • Look for damaged utility lines and structural damage before re-entering your house. Even if you don’t see any damage, be careful on approaching any entrance.
  • If you smell gas or hear a hissing noise, leave at once and contact your local fire department.
  • If power lines are downed, avoid standing water.
  • Keep your children and pets away from floodwaters and other hazards.
  • Treat any water-damaged or contaminated batteries, cleaning products, paint, and fuels or fuel containers as hazardous materials. Contact local authorities for instructions on how to dispose of them properly, and wear rubber gloves and rubber boots when cleaning up.
  • Discard food and drink items that have been in contact with floodwaters, including canned foods, bottled water, eating utensils, and baby bottle nipples.
  • Use only flashlights, not candles, for light.
  • Watch for, and avoid, any snakes or other stray animals that may appear after flooding. Do not kill them, as they will help prevent problems from displaced rodents.
  • Check with your local or state health department to see if your water supply is safe to drink, wash, and bathe with. You may have to boil or chemically treat the water to make it safe.
  • Notify family members that you’re safe. You may have to do so through the American Red Cross’ Safe and Well website or register through 1-866-GET-INFO.

Flooding can strike suddenly and be deadly. While taking the above steps will not guarantee your survival, they will greatly improve your chances of living to tell about it later. As always, use your best judgment.

Resources and References

Weather alerts

National Weather Service active weather alert map:
http://www.weather.gov

Dam and levee safety
(The Association of State Dam Safety Officials)

Dam safety:
http://www.damsafety.org/news/?p=d42cd061-cae2-4039-8fc6-313975f97c36

Living Near Dams: A booklet available from the ASDSO at http://www.livingneardams.org

Levee safety:
http://www.damsafety.org/news/?p=625df143-13db-4eea-9b40-026fbb93ee78

Flood insurance resources

National Flood Insurance Program (FloodSmart.gov):
https://www.floodsmart.gov/floodsmart

Understanding the cost of flooding:
https://www.floodsmart.gov/floodsmart/pages/flooding_flood_risks/the_cost_of_flooding.jsp

The FEMA Flood Map Service Center:
https://msc.fema.gov/portal

How to read flood maps:
http://www.fema.gov/media-library/assets/documents/7984?id=2324
https://www.floodsmart.gov/floodsmart/pages/flooding_flood_risks/understanding_flood_maps.jsp

Government disaster programs (FEMA)

State Directory of CERT (Community Emergency Response Teams) Programs:
http://www.citizencorps.fema.gov/cc/CertIndex.do?submitByState

Disaster Emergency Communications:
https://www.fema.gov/disaster-emergency-communications

Equipment and training

The American Red Cross Store:
http://www.redcrossstore.org/home

Finding Your Local American Red Cross Chapter:
http://www.redcross.org/find-your-local-chapter

Choosing a dust mask:
http://www.todayshomeowner.com/how-to-choose-a-respirator-or-dust-mask/

Emergency communications

FEMA Family Communications Plan:
http://www.fema.gov/media-library/assets/documents/34330

The American Red Cross Safe and Well Registry:
http://www.redcross.org/find-help/contact-family/register-safe-listing

 

 

Disaster Planning for Emergencies: Tornadoes (First of a Series)

People are the most important part of any business. When preparing or reviewing your business plan regularly, make sure you have emergency plans also in place for you, your people and your business.

In the first part of our series, we will give you information on protecting yourself and others for different situations. Our first blog is a timely one for the Midwestern United States, tornadoes.

Severe Weather Awareness: Preparing for Tornadoes

Douglas and Sarpy County tornado sirens sounded on March 25 for a mock tornado drill, as part of Severe Weather Awareness Week (March 23-27). Awareness of severe weather, particularly tornadoes, is important, due to the potential loss of life and property. On June 16, 2014, twin tornadoes devastated the northeast Nebraska town of Pilger, killing one, injuring 15 and causing $2.6 million in damage, according to the Lincoln Journal-Star (http://journalstar.com/news/state-and-regional/nebraska/june-storms-caused-m-in-public-property-damage/article_e22085b1-3f7f-59e3-9fbb-c15467624dfe.html).

How Do Tornadoes Form?

Tornadoes often form in large, severe thunderstorms called supercells.When cold polar air means warm, moist tropical air, the hotter air rises, and as the hotter air rises, it begins to rotate. If the air rotates for long enough, tornadoes can form. However, tornadic winds do not need a thunderstorm to form and can spawn unexpectedly. The most common form of whirlwind not formed in a thunderstorm is the dust devil, which forms during sunny, fair weather conditions. Most dust devils are harmless, but the largest can cause damage and cost lives.

How Can I Prepare Beforehand?

Monitor weather conditions closely. As conditions worsen, listen to either your local news or to a NOAA (National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, the parent organization of the National Weather Service) weather radio for more information. You can also receive weather information from commercial radio and television broadcasts from stations that are part of the Emergency Alert System (EAS).

Assemble an emergency kit. This kit should be kept in your designated safe room or shelter or kept near it so precious time is not lost. FEMA (http://www.ready.gov/kit), the American Red Cross (http://www.redcross.org/prepare/location/home-family/get-kit) and others recommend different supplies to be put in your emergency kit, including:

  • One gallon of water per person per day for at least three days (for both drinking and washing)
  • Food (non-perishable) for three days
  • Can opener for food
  • Mess kits (plates, cups and eating utensils)
  • Radio with extra batteries (or a hand-crank radio)
  • Flashlight with extra batteries (or a hand-crank flashlight)
  • First aid kit, including antiseptics, medicine and bandages
  • Prescription medicines
  • Whistle (to use if you are unable to call loud enough for help)
  • Matches, in a waterproof container
  • Blankets
  • Change of clothes
  • Personal hygiene items
  • Bags, or other items, for makeshift toilets
  • Cell phone with charger, inverter or solar charger
  • Phone apps useful for emergencies, including weather alerts and social media to call for help
  • Phone numbers of friends and family on paper, in case your cell phone has no power
  • Phone numbers of the utilities and emergency assistance
  • A dust mask of at least rating N95 for each person, in case the air is too hard to breathe from dust or fire. You can find these at hardware or home improvement stores, as well as through online vendors.
  • Plastic sheeting to keep dry and make shelter
  • Duct tape to help make shelter with the plastic sheeting, if needed
  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities or bang pipes for help
  • Paper, pens, pencils
  • Trash bags
  • Wipes
  • Extra cash

If you have children, include:

  • Infant formula and water for mix, if needed
  • Diapers, ointment and baby cleaning supplies
  • Water and food for children for at least three days
  • Books, games, amusements and toys that do not require electricity

If you have pets, include:

  • Pet food and water for at least three days
  • Pet carriers
  • Collars and leashes
  • Favorite toy
  • Litter box or newspapers

Putting your emergency supplies in backpacks or duffel bags is a good idea to keep them safe, easy to carry and close at hand. Most of these supplies work for other emergencies as well.

Note: The three-day supply is recommended for short-term survival conditions, if an evacuation is planned within 72 hours. If you anticipate longer emergency conditions, the American Red Cross recommends having a two-week supply of non-perishable food and water.

Other ways to plan ahead

Designate a friend or family member who lives in another state or area as a point of contact in an emergency if you should become displaced.

  • Examine your house to decide which room would be the safest in the event of a tornado and make sure all members of your family know to go there in the event of a tornado. (You may wish to have your designated room reinforced; you can find information from the Federal Emergency Management Agency website at https://www.fema.gov/safe-room-resources.)
  • Conduct tornado drills to ensure everyone knows where to go in case of a tornado
  • Instruct everyone on where to meet if they should somehow get separated as a result of the storm.
  • Take CPR classes so you can assist an injured person if necessary.
  • Contact your local chapter of the American Red Cross to learn more.

More information is available in a downloadable PDF from the National Weather Service at http://www.nws.noaa.gov/os/severeweather/resources/ttl6-10.pdf

What is the Difference Between A Tornado Watch And A Tornado Warning?

Severe weather alerts are divided into two types: watches and warnings. A watch is issued when severe weather conditions are predicted to occur. A tornado watch means conditions are such that tornadoes can form, but have not yet been detected. Watches are typically issued for broad areas for long periods of time. During a watch, the sirens do not sound, but your local meteorologists will monitor conditions, and you can plan for what to do if those severe weather conditions do develop. You should already have a plan in place for alerting family and friends to the danger, if necessary, but the watch period gives you a chance to test that plan.

A warning is issued when severe weather is occurring or is imminent. A tornado warning means that tornadoes have been spotted either by direct observation or by radar. Warnings are typically issued for narrower areas where the storm is expected to pass through. Individual warnings are usually issued for shorter periods of time than watches, but additional warnings may be issued if the storm continues unabated into new areas. The original warning may be extended if the storm moves more slowly than expected or canceled early if the storm dissipates or moves through more quickly than expected.

What does the tornado warning siren sound like?

A tornado siren is one long, unwavering blast.

The sirens sound as soon as a warning is issued and continue to be sounded until the warning is lifted. Once the sirens sound, take action immediately to protect yourself.

Note: Not all jurisdictions sound the sirens in a continuous blast from the time the warning is sounded until it is lifted. Some may sound the initial blast for a period of 3 to 10 minutes, or possibly longer, and then repeat the sound for the same interval as necessary during the warning period. Do NOT assume that because the sirens have stopped sounding that the threat of tornadoes is over. Listen to your weather or commercial radio for notice that the warning has been lifted; there is NO all-clear siren sound for a tornado warning.

What Do I Do When the Sirens Sound?

The National Weather Service (http://www.nws.noaa.gov/om/severeweather/during.shtml) recommends in a tornado warning, get to shelter immediately. How depends on where you are when the sirens sound:

If you are inside a building,

  • Do not open windows.
  • If you are inside a building with a foundation, go to the lowest level available, preferably a basement shelter if you have one. Choose a location well away from windows.
  • If you are in a mobile home, leave it and go to a building with a foundation and a shelter.

If you are caught outdoors near a building with a foundation, seek shelter within it.

If you are outside, away from a building with a foundation,

  • Seek shelter immediately
  • Find a ditch or other significant low area, lie in that low area, covering your head with your hands.

Tornadoes can strike suddenly and be deadly. While taking the above steps will not guarantee your survival, they will greatly improve your chances of living to tell about it later. As always, use your best judgment.

Resources and References:

Tornado formation

Windows to the Universe: http://www.windows2universe.org/earth/Atmosphere/tornado/formation.html

Universe Today: http://www.universetoday.com/71983/how-are-tornadoes-formed/

Live Science: http://www.livescience.com/45546-how-do-tornadoes-form.html

Weather alerts

National Weather Service active weather alert map: http://www.weather.gov/

NASA Earth Observatory: http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/

Government disaster programs (FEMA)

State Directory of CERT (Community Emergency Response Teams) Programs: http://www.citizencorps.fema.gov/cc/CertIndex.do?submitByState

Disaster Emergency Communications: https://www.fema.gov/disaster-emergency-communications

Equipment and training

The American Red Cross Store: http://www.redcrossstore.org/home

Finding Your Local American Red Cross Chapter: http://www.redcross.org/find-your-local-chapter