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Responding to severe weather while developing tomorrow’s leaders

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Early last April, North Texas was hit by severe thunderstorms and tornadoes. One line of storm cells with tornadoes caused severe damage across at least four counties. In Lancaster, in southern Dallas County, more than 300 homes were damaged by the tornadoes.  Local resources were quickly overwhelmed. Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT) from the North Central Texas Region responded to the call for additional help.

Rowlett sent a team that consisted of both CERT volunteers and youth members of Rowlett Explorer Post One (Post One includes members of a youth program chartered through Boy Scouts of America’s Learning for Life Programs). The team went door to door, working with residents to identify debris that needed to be moved. After they identified the debris, the teams assisted in moving the debris to the street, which allowed City crews to promptly remove it.

volunteers pick up debris

CAPTION: Rowlett, Texas, April 5, 2011 -- Volunteers from the Rowlett Community Emergency Response Team and Explorer Post One remove tornado debris.  Explorer Post One is a youth program chartered through Boy Scouts of America’s Learning for Life Programs that receives disaster response training.

Rowlett CERT and Explorer Post One contributed approximately 345 service hours in support of the Rockwall County and City of Lancaster tornado responses.

The City of Lancaster expressed their appreciation stating,

The success of this CERT callout validates the importance of our CERT programs and regional partnerships. Please pass along this appreciation to your CERT members.

Responding to a community's need is nothing new for Rowlett’s Explorer Post One. The post is closely aligned with FEMA’s new direction to build upon the Teen CERT program. Members have been trained to help provide critical support by giving immediate assistance to survivors, providing damage assessment information and organizing other volunteers at a disaster site. However, unlike most Teen CERT programs, the Rowlett Explorer program training goes far beyond the school environment and basic training. Member training includes CERT, Amateur Radio, CPR/AED/First Aid, climbing, rappelling, ropes/knots, National Association of Search and Rescue training, National Incident Management System courses, Incident Command, and other skills. 

Over the past three years, the Post has contributed nearly 3,900 service hours in training, meetings and support.  But more important than the number of hours is the positive example of emergency preparedness the Post sets day in and day out.  The Explorer Post develops character, self-confidence and leadership that is central to the purpose of the program. In addition to supporting emergency responders during a disaster, the Explorer program builds strong working relationships between emergency responders and the communities they serve. These relationships are critical because effectively responding to emergencies and severe weather requires a team effort – made up of the individuals, families, community leaders, organizations and businesses in each local community.

The more we train our youth in these critical areas, the better prepared our community becomes with dealing with uncommon situations. We are not only training our youth in disaster preparedness, we are preparing tomorrow’s leaders. There is no better example of that than Rowlett Explorer Post One, and I encourage your community to look at how you can get youth involved in disaster preparedness.

Thanks for reading and letting me share how we are a force of nature in Rowlett!

Linkin Park Has an Emergency Plan Before Severe Weather Strikes

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As the production manager for world-renowned rock band Linkin Park (LP), risk mitigation is at the top of the priority list.  Linkin Park are at the forefront of finding and creating better solutions to ensure the safety of all those in and around their performances. 

Severe weather is more common than most realize.  That is why we have a solution for outdoor event weather monitoring by accredited meteorologists who advise us through predictive forecasting technologies at all of our outdoor events.  Weather Decision Technologies (WDT), located next to NOAA’s severe weather research and forecasting experts in Norman, Okla., has partnered with us to create the first ever weather decision and alerting matrix deployed specifically for outdoor events.  Here's some of the matrix:

decision matrix

In place throughout the back stage area at a Linkin Park concert are printed decision matrices that advise the crew of the exact actions that are to take place under predetermined weather thresholds which we are advised of through our relationship with WDT.

Linkin Park are also the first-ever touring musical artist to receive the NOAA “Storm Ready” recognition, achieved by demonstrating and fulfilling the NOAA requirements of planning, preparedness and alerting methodologies.  This was a proud moment for Linkin Park and a step forward in the industry. The StormReady program has helped over 2000 communities develop emergency plans to handle severe weather. Going to an outdoor concert or entertainment event should always offer an opportunity to happily escape from the day-today grind of life.  Most times, as you prepare to attend an event, you are likely to be thinking only about the great music or entertainment you are about to participate in; we believe however you should also take a minute to consider your personal safety.

linkin park storm ready

During National Severe Weather Preparedness Week, I want to provide you with tips that could save your life.  The better prepared you are the greater your chances of not being caught off guard by inclement weather during an outdoor event.  The good news is it only takes a few minutes to prepare.  Heat, rain, lightning, hail and damaging winds are all possible game changers at outdoor events. Packing sunscreen, a fully charged mobile device with an advanced weather app (there are lots out there, just search “weather” in your smartphone’s app store) that will deliver life-saving watches and warnings from the National Weather Service, and plenty of water are all precautions one should take before heading out for a day of outdoor entertainment.

Once on site take a minute to familiarize yourself with the surroundings; know your exits, your shelter areas, your means of egress back to your vehicle (which is often times the safest place to be) and the alerting methods that will advise you when it is necessary to take shelter.  Be prepared to look after yourself in the face of these risks as not all outdoor entertainment sites are prepared to safely shelter everyone in attendance.  Don’t be afraid to ask a venue representative what the audience evacuation plan is in the face of foul weather. If they don’t have a suitable answer its best you take a minute to create your own plan.  Remember it’s only an entertainment event – if the threat of severe weather is heading your way take shelter and only return when the all-clear is given. 

Be aware of your surroundings at all times. Don’t be near temporary structures such as scaffolding and tents if high winds are forecasted.

Look for the “Storm Ready” placards. If you see these on site then there IS a plan in place from the venue - they will have alerting systems and the necessary instructions for you to follow when the threat of weather becomes real. 

If you don’t already have a family preparedness plan, now is the time to Be a Force of Nature:  know your risk of severe weather, take action, pledge to prepare and be an example, tell others how to prepare.

These few tips can be a matter of life and death.  Enjoy yourself. But do it safely by having a plan for severe weather.

Preparing Communities for Severe Weather

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Along with the advantages of witnessing the changing of New England’s beautiful seasons, residents must be ready to face a variety of severe weather conditions.  My name is Rachel Little, a member of the FEMA Youth Preparedness Council, and a resident of Massachusetts. My favorite part of living in New England is the variety of activities to do like skiing and snowboarding in the winter, swimming and visiting the beach in the summer and all within just a couple hours of where I live. 

While I love to enjoy the great outdoors, nor’easters, blizzards, tornadoes, hurricanes and flash floods are all dangerous hazards New Englanders have faced within the past two years.  Preparing for severe weather is critically important when living here. Preparedness is imperative when a storm is approaching, though some don’t always know how to prepare for something severe. When I heard about the February blizzard approaching, I knew it was going to be a big one.  One measure that our area took to prepare for the blizzard was putting a driving ban after four o’clock on the evening the storm was set to hit.  All motor vehicles had to evacuate the roads or face large fines.  As far as preparedness goes, I thought this was an extremely brilliant precaution and would keep many people safe.  It would also make the job easier for emergency personnel working through the night.  The type of snow that a storm brings makes all the difference in the world.  If it’s light snow, it’s easier to deal with, less dangerous, and easier for snow removal.  If it’s thick, wet, heavy snow, it makes it more difficult for all residents.  It’s harder to remove, can cause severe damage to personal property and is a nightmare for men and women working for the power company.  Thankfully the snow was light, but there was just a lot of it!      

damaged tree

CAPTION: South Kingstown, R.I., Feb. 19, 2013 -- Damage in South Kingstown following the Northeastern Blizzard.

This situation was very similar to the October snowstorm in 2011.  We knew there was a possibility of snow around Halloween, but it was not forecasted to be as bad as it turned out to be.  A major problem with the October 2011 snowstorm were the remaining leaves on the trees, which gave the heavy snow more of an opportunity to break branches and limbs.  Trees snapped all through the night and took out power lines, leaving so many without power.  My father works for National Grid, and I didn’t see him for several weeks after the storm because the power outages were so widespread. 

utility workers

CAPTION: Narragansett, R.I., Feb. 19, 2013 -- Utility workers repair downed power lines following the Northeast Blizzard.

By far the most disastrous and destructive disaster to hit our community was the 2011 tornado that cut through Massachusetts.  No one ever thought a tornado could possibly make its way to us, as we have large mountains all around us and live in a valley.  I think that it is an important fact to be made known across the country, that any place is vulnerable to the attack of a vicious natural disaster at any time.

These experiences have only made disaster preparedness more important to me and make me want to be ready for anything in the years ahead.  After our last blizzard in February, I have continued to spread three key factors to being prepared: know your risk, take action, and be an example for your family and community. Taking action is not only readying yourself and family members for a disastrous situation, but spreading the word to your neighborhood and throughout the community. By knowing our risk, we can greatly reduce the amount of fatalities and injuries during a disaster because we took steps to prepare beforehand.  I also continue to be a champion of preparedness for all the people I care so much about.  I have encouraged my family, school and community to talk about emergency plans and build a preparedness kit before severe weather hits. If we all take part in spreading the word about disaster preparedness and sharing tips, many people will be much safer if they have to go through a severe storm. 

Editor’s Note: FEMA’s Youth Preparedness Council is a unique opportunity for a nominated group of youth leaders to serve on a highly distinguished national council and to voice their opinions, experiences, ideas and solutions to help strengthen the nation’s resiliency for all types of disasters.