County commissioners were presented with an official “Storm Ready Community” sign Tuesday, June 5, at a recognition ceremony held during their regular monthly meeting. Barry Gooden, a warning meteorologist for the National Weather Service, along with local members of the Catoosa Emergency Management Association, made the presentation.
“I want to commend what you gentlemen have done for allowing these men (local Emergency Management Agency members) to make Catoosa County all the more prepared for when another storm moves through,” Gooden said. “We know it will, it's just a question of when....Today gives recognition that you've done certain things that are instrumental in becoming ready.”
Begun in 1999 in Tulsa, Okla., the Storm Ready Community is a designation that basically lays out the goal to “arm communities with the communication safety skills needed to save lives and property through advanced planning, education and awareness.” Communities are required to establish a 24-hour warning point to receive NWS information and provide local reports and advice. Recognition is also contingent upon having a timely means of ensuring warnings to citizens, having an emergency operation plan and offering community preparedness plans so the entire population is aware of what they can do in crisis situations.
According to the Storm Ready website, as of June 5, there are 1,924 Storm Ready sites in 48 states. Each year, Americans cope with an average of 10,000 thunderstorms, 5,000 floods, 1,000 tornadoes, and an average of two land-falling deadly hurricanes. These take place on top of winter storms, intense summer heat, high winds, wild fires and other deadly weather impacts. The site also states that approximately 90% of all presidentially declared disasters are weather related, leading to around 500 deaths per year and nearly $14 billion in damage.
Catoosa EMA director Steve Quinn congratulated the board and thanked them for their support in their efforts.
“‘Storm Ready’ has proven over the past, through the state and through the counties that are storm ready certified, that the program works,” Quinn said. “The more we can get the information out to the communities the better off we are and to have a plan as to what action we'll take during the times of any type of storm disaster is a plus and I commend you for this.”
Commission chairman Keith Greene reflected on the lessons learned from last year’s tornado and echoed the appreciation of all the board members.
”I'm thankful for you guys taking the time to go through this and making sure Catoosa County is prepared for any type of severe weather or any type of emergencies,” Greene said, addressing the local EMA members. “It's not only bad weather but emergency readiness preparedness…. The amount of effort and time you've put into this and learned from it is tremendous and I appreciate that. Anything we can do to make sure we're prepared for a major event is a good thing. As a citizen and as a board member I want to thank you for taking the time to do this and making this happen.”