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Oklahoma Tornadoes a Reminder to Be Prepared

TUESDAY, June 4 (HealthDay News) -- The recent tornadoes that devastated parts of Oklahoma, killing scores, should serve as a sad reminder that you need to prepare for a natural disaster or severe weather, experts say.

Regardless of where they live, people often disregard the potential of natural dangers, said one expert. Staying informed and preparing for worst-case scenarios, however, can help residents of any city brace for the unexpected.

"When the probability of an event occurring is small and there is a lesser chance you will be affected if that event occurs, people become complacent," Lisa McCormick, an assistant professor in the department of health care organization and policy at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, said in a university news release. "False alarms have the same effect."

McCormick said, however, that media coverage of natural disasters like the recent tornadoes can help increase people's sensitivity to such events.

"Research has shown that people become more aware of the need to be prepared after events occur, even if the event didn't occur in their own community," McCormick said. "If the event is catastrophic, there is more media coverage for a longer period of time, reinforcing the need to be prepared."

Although no preparedness plan will guarantee safety from a tornado or other extreme event, McCormick advised people to take the following steps to be ready for the unexpected:

  • Make a plan. Know what to do if a tornado warning is issued long before it actually happens. If you are in a house, the basement or an interior bathroom on the lowest floor with no windows is the safest place to go. For those in a high-rise apartment building, the lowest floor of the building is best. People who live in trailers should identify the nearest tornado shelter, church with a basement or other building they can use for shelter.
  • Put together a disaster-preparedness kit. When natural disasters strike, access to food, water or electricity may be interrupted for an extended period of time. Gather basic supplies, including a first-aid kit and a battery-powered radio.
  • Stay informed. Even if power is lost, a battery-powered radio will keep you informed of weather alerts. It's also a good idea to learn about the warning systems in your community.
  • Focus on children. It's important to get up to speed on the disaster plans in place at your children's school or daycare facility. Ask about evacuation policies and procedures, including how you will be notified if an evacuation occurs. Be sure to talk to your children about what they should do if they are at home when a tornado warning is issued, and practice the plan.
  • Protect your head. Be sure to keep helmets on hand for both children and adults to prevent head injuries. Any type of helmet can be used, provided it was designed to minimize damage due to high-velocity impacts.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides more information on emergency preparedness for natural disasters and severe weather.

-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas

SOURCE: University of Alabama at Birmingham, news release, May 30, 2013

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