angie.thompson@gaflnews.com



TIFTON -- Sirens will blare warnings today in Tift County and other counties around Georgia in a tornado drill -- one of the exercises planned during this Severe Weather Awareness Week in Georgia.

Tift County Emergency Management Director Faye Duckworth said the weather watch siren will be activated first and the weather warning signal second.

"This is the opportunity for people to learn the sound of the sirens," Duckworth said.

A "weather watch" means that conditions are favorable for a possible tornado. A "weather warning" means that a tornado has been spotted and is on a path to Tift County. Duckworth said each signal will sound for five minutes.

Tift County schools will be participating in the drill. E-911 will activate the schools' alert receivers and the National Warning System will activate the alerts.

Duckworth said she and other EMA county directors work with the Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA) to identify ways to help better prepare and protect people from the impact of severe weather.

Last year, Duckworth's agency was able to secure a grant and purchase and install 92 weather alert radios at schools, nursing homes, factories and other priority locations throughout the county.

Georgia weather in 2001 was relatively calm compared to tornadoes, flooding, hurricanes, winter storms and tropical storms the state has endured in the past. Calm periods of weather, however, can cause citizens to become complacent and not be prepared when severe weather strikes.

Knowing what to do and where to go during disasters and evacuations can help save lives. Duckworth recommends that families develop and implement a family disaster plan.

"This plan should designate where you will evacuate, how to get in contact with family members and what you would do if you lost basic services like electricity and water," Duckworth said.

Duckworth suggests families assemble a disaster supply kit containing items such as water, non-perishable food, a change of clothing, blankets, a first aid kit, prescription medications and an extra pair of glasses, to name a few.

A National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio, with either battery powered or with battery back up, allows people to access weather warnings, watches, forecasts and other hazard information around the clock. The radios, equipped with special alarm tones to signal an alert, can be purchased at many retail stores that sell electronic merchandise.

For more information on how to prepare for an emergency, contact Duckworth at 386-7910, the Tiftarea Chapter of the American Red Cross at 382-3133 or visit the Georgia Emergency Management Agency's web site at www.gema.state.ga.us.



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