Spring weather safety - Be prepared Published April 15, 2011 By William P. Roeder 45th Weather Squadron PATRICK AFB, Fla. -- April showers may bring May flowers. However, as the weather over the past two weeks has shown, spring also brings weather hazards. Tornadoes, lightning, strong winds, heavy rain, hail - do you know what to do? Heavy rain can be the worst weather danger by contributing to auto accidents. Slow down on wet roads, especially in the first 20 minutes of the rain when oil makes the roads especially slippery. Slow down and leave extra stopping distance between you and the next vehicle. Slow down and beware of unexpected large deep puddles that can make you lose control of the car. Know where these large deep puddles tend to occur on local roads and watch the car in front of you for large splashes. Slow down; think of your family and friends if you were to die or are injured for life in an accident. Oh yes, one more time, SLOW DOWN! Tornado safety is an easy 2-step process. TORNADO SAFETY STEP-1, Have A Plan: Identify the safest room in your building and ensure everyone knows it. That includes both at work and at home. The safest rooms are on the lowest floor, farther inside especially with inside walls between you and the outside wall, small rooms with solid construction like restrooms and closets, and away from windows. A strong table and thick pads can protect you against falling debris. Motorcycle and sports helmets can protect your head. People in mobile homes or other weak portable buildings should seek proper shelter elsewhere. TORNADO SAFETY STEP-2, Keep Informed: The 45th Weather Squadron (45 WS) gives the potential for severe weather at KSC/CCAFS in their daily 24-Hour and Weekly forecasts (www.patrick.af.mil/weather). If the threat continues, 45 WS then issues a Severe Weather Watch with a desired lead-time of four hours. Finally, if tornadoes are imminent or observed, 45 WS issues a Tornado Warning with a desired lead-time of five minutes. Follow adverse weather local procedures. At home, stay informed about approaching weather. The National Weather Service in Melbourne gives the potential for severe weather in their general forecasts, issues a Tornado Watch when conditions are expected that may produce tornadoes, and issues a Tornado Warning when one has been detected or is imminent. If severe weather is likely, ensure you and your family review your safety plan, and know where your safest room is located. Secure any loose outside materials and close protective shutters, if there is time before the high winds start. If a tornado or severe weather watch is issued, listen for weather warnings and be ready to act. If a warning is issued for your area, go your safe room immediately. Regardless of whether a warning is issued, go to your safe room if threatening weather approaches - there may not be time for an official warning to be disseminated. One of the best ways to prepare for severe weather is to buy a 'NOAA All Hazards Radio', formerly known as 'NOAA Weather Radio'. This is essential if you live in a location without a tornado siren. However, even if you live near a tornado siren, it may not be loud enough to wake you while deep asleep inside your house. Tornadoes between midnight and dawn are 2.5 times more likely to kill than tornadoes during the day. A 'NOAA Radio' by your bed is easily loud enough to wake you. 'NOAA Radio' provides alternatives for the hearing and visually impaired. NOAA Radio doesn't cover 2% of the country, so test the reception of new radios to be sure you're covered. A second way to receive severe weather warnings is recommended, e.g. a cell phone with text messaging or e-mail capability. Some county emergency management offices and all the Orlando TV station websites offer free severe weather warning text/e-mail service (though your cell phone plan might charge for receiving these messages). Some companies also offer this service for a small annual fee. You can even set different ring tones for those calls, e.g. a loud alarm. Some of these services allow targeting of the messages to specific locations so that you are notified only of warnings that affect you. The National Weather Service is expanding their text message/e-mail warnings to the general public. Lightning is the most frequent danger from thunderstorms. Lightning is the leading source of weather deaths in Florida. When on base, listen for the announcements of the lightning advisories issued by 45th Weather Squadron. A Phase-I Lightning Watch is issued when lightning is expected within five nautical miles of the location with a desired lead-time of 30 minutes. A Phase-II Lightning Warning is issued when lightning is imminent or occurring within five nautical miles of the location. Follow your local procedures when you hear these lightning watches and warnings. If you don't have local procedures, then use the following guidance until you do. Under a Phase-I Lightning Watch, if outside and near a safe location, quickly finish essential work if it won't take longer than a few minutes and go to the safe location. If a safe location is not near, stop your work immediately and go to a safe location. If already in a safe location, stay there. Under a Phase-II Lightning Warning, you are in danger! Go to a safe location immediately. A location that is safe from lightning is a large fully enclosed building with wiring and plumbing, such as a house, office building, school, or store. Once inside, keep away from corded telephones (except to call for help in an emergency), electrical appliances, wiring, and plumbing. Being inside a vehicle with a sold metal roof and solid metal sides also offers good safety from lightning. Don't touch the outside of the vehicle. Close the doors and close the windows. Weather safety training is available from 45th Weather Squadron (email@example.com, 494-7426).