The Portage County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management will be sharing videos and information during Ohio Severe Weather Awareness Week, which starts on Sunday, to help residents prepare for, survive and recover from severe weather disasters.
“Our county is no stranger to tornadoes and flooding. There have been numerous tornadoes in our area with minimal damage since 2020,” said Ryan Shackelford, director of Portage Homeland Security and Emergency Management. “Our goal is to make the tools available to residents so they can be ready and weather the storm. Severe Weather Awareness Week is a great time to make a plan and learn more.”
Midway through the week PCOHSEM and local municipalities will participate in the Statewide Tornado Drill, at 9:50 a.m. Wednesday, March 23. The drill is coordinated by Ohio Emergency Management Agency and the National Weather Service.
During the drill, residents are asked to use their home safety plan and shelter-in-place or discuss sheltering options or plans among co-workers and family members. Every school, citizen and business is encouraged to participate in the drill, which lasts only minutes. Information about tornado safety is available at https://www.weather.gov/safety/tornado.
Shackelford said his office will be providing videos on Portage Prepares social media that instruct residents how to prepare for tornadoes. He will be on site at the Hiram Police Department for the statewide drill to video and share information.
The schedule for the week-long awareness event includes a theme for each day:
- Sunday, March 20: Make a Plan
- Monday, March 21: Severe Thunderstorms
- Tuesday, March 22: Flash Flooding
- Wednesday, March 23: Tornados
- Thursday, March 24: Lightning
- Friday, March 25: Emergency Warning
- Friday, March 26: Manufactured Home Safety.
You can find the information on Ohio EMA and NWS websites and social media as well as Portage Prepares on Facebook and Twitter.
Shackelford said some local communities have tornado sirens and may be testing them the day of the drill. He urged residents to take time and learn about their community warning system and sign up online for alerts because not all areas have sirens and sirens are for outdoor notification only.
Whether or not you sign-up, alerts through the national Emergency Alert System go to your cell phone in an emergency from the National Weather Service or local alerting programs. There’s more information at https://www.co.portage.oh.us/homeland-security-emergency-management/pages/portage-county-emergency-alerting.
There is also the Portage County Emergency Management App, free to download for iPhone and Androids. The app receives alerts and displays them on phones. It includes weather radio, a directory of contact numbers for local safety forces, a portal for submitting damage reports and access to PCOHSEM social media.
What about those emergency plans?
“They can be basic. There are many online resources to help individuals, families and businesses create plans. You need to answer questions about what to do during and after a storm. Then practice with a drill. That gives you a focus when the emergency hits and helps you stay safe,” Shackelford explained.
Find online help at https://www.ready.gov/make-a-plan for households and https://www.ready.gov/business-continuity-planning-suite for businesses.
Along with planning and practicing what to do, Shackelford stressed the importance of building an emergency kit, saying “It’s absolutely critical if power is out or the damage prevents you from exiting the structure.”
Basic kits can include water, non-perishable food, battery-powered or hand-cranked radios, flash lights, batteries, medications and more. Include items needed for people with functional needs and pets. While you are organizing the kit make sure it can become portable in case you are able to travel or must move to a shelter. More information at https://www.ready.gov/build-a-kit.
“Preparedness by practicing and knowing your plan will result in surviving and getting back on your feet after a severe weather event. It applies to households and just as much to businesses,” Shackelford said.
For more information, contact the Portage County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management at 330-297-3607.