Severe weather season looms

LAWRENCEVILLE - In the case of a natural disaster, the first 72 hours is crunch time.

With spring peeking its flowery head over the horizon, officials with Gwinnett County Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency (EMA) are reminding citizens it's nearly the season of tornadoes, lightning, floods and the year's most unforgiving thunderstorms.

The local EMA points to a National Weather Service initiative called "Severe Weather Awareness Week" as a one-stop shop for emergency wisdom.

The weeklong observance, which begins today, encourages Georgians to practice emergency preparedness and response procedures - especially as they pertain to the critical first 72 hours.

That's how long it could take emergency workers to reach you should bridges and roads give out in the face of floods, tornadoes or, later in the year, hurricanes, said Maj. Alan Doss, Gwinnett's EMA director.

The observance kicks off with Family Preparedness Day, which Doss calls the "perfect time for every family to plan and rehearse what they should do during the first 72 hours of any severe, weather-related event or disaster."

A good starting point, Doss said, is a statewide preparedness campaign - the Georgia EMA's "Ready Georgia" - that gives the imperative info residents need to make emergency supply kits, develop communication plans and stay attuned to potential threats. (Learn more at www.ready.ga.gov.)

"The benefit of being self-sufficient for 72 hours is that your and your family can survive circumstances that might otherwise be tragic," Doss said.

Following today's focus on the family awareness topic, Severe Weather Awareness Week shifts gears to examine NOAA Weather Radio (Monday), Thunderstorm Safety (Tuesday), Tornado Safety (Wednesday), Lightning Safety (Thursday), Flooding (Friday) and SKYWARN (Saturday.)

For more information, contact the Gwinnett County EMA at 770-513-5227 or visit them online at www.gwinnettcounty.com.