The sky is falling! The sky is falling! Oh wait—that’s just hail. These hard, frozen nuggets are formed when raindrops pass through a belt of cold air on their way to earth. The cold air causes the raindrops to freeze into small blocks of ice. Hail most commonly causes damage to property, vehicles (remember all of those “Hail Sales” at your local dealership?) and crops; more than $1 billion in damage each year. In fact, the costliest thunderstorm event in U.S. history struck Fort Worth in 1995.
The TV meteorologist isn’t the only one with his eye on the sky. The National Weather Service (NWS) has established a network of Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACES) volunteers (find a link to RACES in the Get Involved section) and SKYWARN Spotters to help obtain critical weather information. These volunteers help identify and describe severe local storms, enabling the NWS to issue more timely and accurate warnings for tornadoes, severe thunderstorms and flash floods.
In advance of approaching storms, the National Weather Service issues watches and warnings for severe weather, providing much needed information to citizens so they are able to make sound judgements about the appropriate actions to take. Watches and warnings are broadcast over the radio and on TV. (see page Act.5 for more information).
In December 2009, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security added Dallas-Fort Worth to the nation’s top ten terror targets. Just a few months earlier, a Jordanian national was arrested and eventually sentenced to 24 years in prison after federal investigators say he tried to blow up a downtown Dallas skyscraper. Authorities foiled his attempt, but the near- tragedy made it very clear that no one can predict what will happen next. The good news is that these same attacks also served to make communities and individuals more aware and improve their ability to cope with emergencies.
Plan to hold a Neighborhood Watch meeting. It’s important that you’re able to join with your neighbors in the face of an emergency. Together you can help safeguard your homes and children. Your local Sheriffs’ office or police station can help you get started or visit www.usaonwatch.org for more information.
SNAP stands for Special Needs Assistance Program. It is a database that enables Office of Emergency Management personnel to register residents with special needs so they can better plan for disasters.
Individuals may register at www.snapforyou.org or contact their local Office of Emergency Management.