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Plan for severe weather during COVID-19, make masks a part of your emergency kit

With severe weather season upon us, Norman Fire Chief and Emergency Manager Travis King wants residents to be weather aware and have an emergency plan in place that takes into account best practices during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“In a lot of ways, your tornado preparedness plan shouldn’t change too much. We have recognized the ‘Shelter in Place’ concept as the safest option for tornado safety for a while, and we still encourage residents to make that their Plan A,” Chief King said. “Residents should respond to whichever threat is most imminent. If a family must seek shelter with others then they should do so while also protecting themselves from coronavirus as much as possible.” 

A significant concern is the safety of families leaving a shelter to go to a shelter.  The family emergency plan should include the process for determining when to shelter in place or to vacate to a different shelter location. When a family decides to leave home to seek shelter, they should do so early enough to reach their destination long before the storm enters Norman. If multiple households must shelter together masks or other face coverings should be worn and social distancing maintained to the extent possible.  

“Too often, families are waiting for the outdoor warning sirens to sound, but by then it is really too late to properly react to the conditions. Awareness is the key to being prepared”, King said.

When the conditions are present for the decision to sound the sirens, it is the last means available to provide any warning to the citizens.  Typically the sirens are sounded based on weather conditions that pose an immediate threat of a tornado striking the city.  The sirens are primarily an outdoor warning system and are not intended to wake citizens in the middle of the night or be heard indoors. The sirens will not be sounded as an all-clear signal.

Local television coverage is the most popular storm tracking option; however, it is important to have a backup in place in the event of power loss. Radios capable of receiving the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration transmission, commonly known as NOAA weather radio, are a must-have item in every household according to King. Portable radios or televisions and smartphone apps are also good to have. The National Weather Service’s website at weather.gov and other weather news sites are also useful resources. 

For further information regarding severe weather preparedness, contact Norman’s Emergency Management Coordinator, David Grizzle at 405-292-9780.