Stay informed about severe weather

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By Marci L. Stone, MBA, EFO
Deputy Chief
Bedford County Department of Fire & Rescue
     February 24, 2012,Bedford County went under the first Tornado Watch for the 2012 Tornado season. 
    According to the Virginia Department of Emergency Management last year Virginia had 51 tornadoes, the second highest number on record.  It is important for everyone to stay informed of the potential for severe weather and to know what to do when watches and warnings are in effect for Bedford County. 
    The National Weather Service, NOAA Weather Radios are the best source for receiving timely information on weather alerts.  In fact, these alerts are often utilized by local media as their source for their notification of severe weather.
    When a watch is issued for the area, this means that conditions are favorable for severe weather to occur and you should remain aware of changing weather conditions.  The watch should prompt you to begin to prepare for the potential of severe weather and talk to your family members about your emergency plan.
    If a warning is issued this means that there has been an actual sighting of a tornado or tornado activity has been seen on the weather radar for the area.  If you live in and around the city of Bedford, you will hear the audible weather alarm sound.  Anytime a warning is issued you should take immediate action and move to a safe area.  
    The National Weather Service recommends that if you are at home or at work: move to a safe area, this should be on the lowest level of the building; stay away from windows, the best place to be is in an interior room, a bathroom, closet or interior hallway with no windows;  if you are in a vehicle or mobile home, get to a sturdy building or storm shelter to take cover.  Information outlined through the Virginia Department of Emergency Management states that “once in the safe area, crouch down or sit on the floor, facing down, and cover your head with your hands.”
    It is our hope that another tornado does not hit the Bedford area, however, Mother Nature is unpredictable.  Bedford County Department of Fire & Rescue and other emergency response agencies including sheriff’s, emergency management and police work diligently to ensure our response community remains prepared for identified threats such as tornadoes.  It is imperative that citizens do their part in emergency preparedness, which includes staying informed and being prepared. 
    For more information on storm readiness visit www.readyvirginia.gov.