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April 9-13 is Wisconsin's annual Tornado and Severe Weather Awareness Week and Thursday, April 12, is the statewide tornado drill. The National Weather Service (NWS) will issue a statewide mock tornado watch at 1 p.m. followed by a mock tornado warning at 1:45 p.m. The mock tornado watch and warning ends at 2 p.m.
Again this year, a mock tornado warning will also be issued at 6:45 p.m., Thursday, April 12, to give families and businesses a chance to check their emergency severe weather plans during the evening.
Many radio and TV stations across the state will issue the mock tornado warnings. In addition, mock alerts will be issued on NOAA Weather Radios and many communities will sound their tornado sirens.
UW-Parkside students, faculty and staff will be notified of all drills via the Ranger Alert emergency notification system. All drills are voluntary. At the very least, participants should consider where they would go in the event of actual severe weather.
The preferred shelter location on the UW-Parkside campus is the "D2" basement level. If you can't safely reach D2, then seek shelter away from exterior glass in an interior room or corridor. Avoid free-span roofs during a tornado, like the roofs we have in the gymnasiums, theaters, etc.
If actual severe storms are expected in the state on Thursday, April 12, the tornado drill will be postponed until Friday, April 13, at the same times in the afternoon and evening. If severe storms are possible Friday, the drill will be canceled.
UW-Parkside Safety and Risk Management Director Bob Grieshaber offers tips on creating your tornado emergency plan.
Where would you seek shelter whether at home or at work?
Put as many walls as possible between you and the storm.
Preferably, move to a basement and get under a sturdy table or the stairs. On campus we recommend the D2 level as the most secure area. If moving to the D2 level creates its own hazard by traveling past exterior glass or skylights, then move to an interior room or hallway.
Keep in mind that our campus "safe haven" rescue areas are often located in the stairwells and may not be appropriate as a tornado shelter if there is exterior glass. Also, avoid free-span roofs like those in gymnasiums and swimming pools.
Shelter locations can be found in UW-Parkside administrative policy #39 tornado warnings and alert policy.
If you're involved in a classroom activity on campus, how will you learn of severe weather emergencies?
Ranger Alert is our primary communication method for severe weather emergencies.
We'll use Ranger Alert on the drill day; please pay attention to the email alerts, text messaging, web page banners and postings on social media. If you haven't signed up for Ranger Alert you can do so online.
Can you hear the outdoor siren from your location on campus?
The siren is intended for persons outdoors, however, you may still be able to hear the siren in our buildings.
The siren indicates a tornado warning and you should seek shelter.
What will you do if caught outdoors?
If caught outdoors, seek shelter in a sturdy building.
If you cannot quickly walk to shelter, get into a vehicle, buckle your seat belt and drive to the closest sturdy shelter. If flying debris occurs while you are driving, pull over and park. Now you have two options as a last resort: Stay in the vehicle with the seat belt on and place your head below the windows. If you can safely get noticeably lower than the roadway, exit the vehicle and lie in that area, covering your head with your hands. Do not seek shelter under an overpass.
How does the National Weather Service deliver these tornado drills and real tornado watches and warnings? They use a notification program called the Emergency Alert System or EAS.
What is the Emergency Alert System (EAS)? EAS is a national public alert and warning system that enables the President of the United States to address the American public during extreme emergencies. Alerting authorities like the National Weather Service can also use the state and local EAS to send alerts and warnings to radio and television stations, cable television, and NOAA weather radios (also known as emergency weather radios).
Why do these drills? The National Weather Service, Wisconsin Emergency Management and the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association believe it is important to allow the public to test their NOAA weather radio receivers which can only be activated using a real tornado warning code. The code also triggers the alert to air on most broadcast radio, TV and cable stations. The goal of any drill is to test all electronic systems that alert Wisconsin citizens to impending severe weather that can result in the loss of life and property.
What can I expect to hear/see? The drills may look like a regular EAS test that most people are already familiar with, but there will be some differences in what viewers will see and hear. The audio message will repeat "This is a test." The video message scroll may not indicate "This is a test" due to programming limitations. The message will last for approximately one minute and then regular programming will resume.
Where will I hear/see the tests? On all participating radio, television, cable providers (who are called EAS Participants) and NOAA Weather Radios.
When will the drills occur? April 12 at 1:00 p.m. for the mock tornado watch, and at 1:45 p.m. for the mock tornado warnings. At 2:00 p.m., the tornado test will end. A second mock tornado warning will be issued at 6:55 p.m.
What else might happen? Many communities will activate their outdoor warning sirens for the tests at 1:45 p.m. and 6:55 p.m.
What would cause the tests to be postponed or cancelled? The tornado drills will take place even if the sky is cloudy, dark and/or rainy, and even non-severe thunderstorms. We realize a cloudy, dark sky with rain may look threatening to some people. However, this is not a hazardous situation that results in a direct loss of life and/or property.
If actual severe storms are expected anywhere in Wisconsin on Thursday, April 12, the tornado drills will be postponed until Friday, April 13, at the same times. If severe storms are possible Friday, the drills will be cancelled. Severe weather is defined as tornadoes, damaging thunderstorm wind gusts of 58 mph or more, or large hail 1 inch in diameter or larger.
Any changes will be issued to local media as well as posted on the ReadyWisconsin website at http://readywisconsin.wi.gov. Updates will also be posted on www.facebook.com/ReadyWisconsin, www.twitter.com/ReadyWisconsin and www.instagram.com/ReadyWisconsin.