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Red Cross: Prepare now for severe weather

Mar 29, 2013

During Severe Weather Awareness Week in Iowa, the American Red Cross serving Greater Iowa urges residents to take steps now to stay safe when severe weather threatens.

The Red Cross recommends individuals and families prepare for tornadoes by:

• Downloading the free American Red Cross Tornado App: The app is available in English or Spanish and gives iPhone, iPad and Android smart phone and tablet users instant access to local and real-time information, so they know what to do before, during and after a tornado. The app includes a high-pitched siren and “tornado warning!” alert that signals when a NOAA tornado warning has been issued. The feature allows users to make critical decisions and to take actions to help keep themselves and their loved ones safe even in the middle of the night. An “all clear” alert lets users know when a tornado warning has expired or has been canceled.

Other features of the app include: location-based NOAA tornado, severe thunderstorm and flood watch and warning alerts; enhanced weather maps and information provided by Weather Underground; one-touch “I’m safe” messaging that allows users to broadcast reassurance to family and friends via social media outlets that they are out of harm’s way; preloaded content that gives users instant access to critical action steps, even without mobile connectivity; a toolkit with flashlight, strobe light and audible alarm; and locations of open Red Cross shelters.

• Creating and practicing a Home Tornado Plan: Pick a “safe room” or uncluttered area without windows where family members and pets could seek shelter on the lowest floor possible: a basement, a center hallway, a bathroom or a closet. Putting many walls between you and the outside provides additional protection.

• Assembling an Emergency Preparedness Kit: Kits should contain a first aid kit, essential medications, foods that don’t require cooking or refrigeration, manual can opener, bottled water, flashlights and a battery-powered radio with extra batteries and other emergency items for the whole family.

• Heeding Storm Warnings: A tornado “watch” means a tornado is possible in the area. When a tornado “warning” is issued, go to the safe room to protect yourself from glass and other flying objects. If you are outside, hurry to the basement of a nearby sturdy building. If you are in a car or mobile home, get out immediately and head to the nearest building for safety. If there are no buildings, lie flat in a low-lying area or ditch and cover your head with your arms and hands.

• Preparing for High Winds: Make trees more wind resistant by removing diseased and damaged limbs and strategically removing branches so wind can blow through. Install permanent shutters on windows and add protection to the outside areas of sliding glass doors. Strengthen garage doors and unreinforced masonry. Move or secure lawn furniture, outdoor decorations, trash cans, hanging plants and anything else that can be picked up by wind.

The Tornado App can be found in the Apply App Store and the Google Play Store for Android by searching for American Red Cross or by going to redcross.org/mobileapps. For information on tornado preparedness, contact the American Red Cross serving Greater Iowa at 515-243-7681, visit www.redcross.org or call 800-RED-CROSS.

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