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Riverdale Council Member Anthony Heddlesten offers some great advice on what to do if you receive a warning from the NWS or hear the storm sirens go off. (Taken from Facebook)

Post-derecho I’ve seen several Facebook friends post about NWS warnings and sirens and their lack of understanding or maybe better understanding post disaster. I’ve been getting daily NWS briefings from 3 offices for about a decade now. I respond to disasters, and know some things, but I’m not a perfect fount of knowledge either – reach out to your local city, EMA, and NWS professionals for more (and probably better) ideas!

Here are some things I think you should know:

1) there’s a cool color coded warning system for severe thunderstorms (light green, green, yellow, orange, red, pink) after looking at these reports and responding to disasters for a decade, I have developed the following risk stance towards these colors (meh, better bring an umbrella, better know where a sturdy shelter is at all times, better be within walking distance of a sturdy shelter at all times, I’m not leaving the house today, I’m not leaving the basement today; respectively)

2) on literally every day that’s been orange, red, or pink in 10 years, a tornado has hit within that area listed. Often times I’m not effected, but someone is catastrophically impacted. Every. Single. Time. In. Ten. Years.

3) sirens blow for things that will ruin your month. Not your afternoon, not your event that you’re at, your month. Sirens are for catastrophic damages somewhere within earshot of you. They are meant to get you to a sturdy shelter ASAP.

4) you need to learn how to read NWS text write ups for storms – there is a ton of fast moving info that is very succinct and is constantly being field verified. Be particularly mindful for “spotter indicated” vs “radar indicated”. There is a ton more data that they provide than what a weather app has. Why doesn’t NWS have a weather app?! I’m completely baffled.

5) GOES-R came out a couple years ago and made everything better and smarter, but anyone who’s studied hydraulics of fluids (air is a fluid) knows how hard it is to categorize and define movement of fluids in a three dimensional system as robust and intricate as our atmosphere. Learn about GOES and what it does and ask that it continues to be funded. That’s not a guarantee.

6) find more ways to get notified – storm sirens aren’t meant to be heard in your home – NOAA weather radios are. Set your Facebook/social media feed to bring your local NWS and EMA office Messages front and center! See if your county has other sorts of emergency notification system like Nixle or reverse 911 and SIGN UP NOW. it will text you things you need to know. Go to iNWS and sign up for automated alerts for areas that are important to you – you literally can draw a polygon on a GIS server and select which watches and warnings you want to receive. It’s super easy.

These are simple things you can do to be safe(r) during an emergency situation. Good luck!