WI officials urge residents to take precautions - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

WI officials urge residents to take precautions after rash of tornadoes


MADISON (WKOW) -- Wisconsin Emergency officials are urging residents to take precautions after devastating tornadoes tore through the Midwest, and an above-normal number touched down in the state.

The National Weather Service said Wednesday that 26 tornadoes have touched Wisconsin soil this year, already three more than the state's yearly average.

Emergency Preparedness Coordinator Tod Pritchard says by the time the sirens go off, you should already know where to go, and how to find out exactly what's going on.

"Doing drills with your family, figuring out what the safest location is in your home [is critical], because you literally may hear that siren go off and you may only have a few seconds to get to that location," he said.

That location should be on the lowest floor of your house. If you don't have a basement, get to an interior room; one that doesn't have windows.

Emergency officials say you should also think about what to do while at work. Talk to your employer about making a severe weather plan. Find out where shelter areas in your building are, and make sure they're clearly marked.

Getting caught in your car is trickier, says Pritchard, but never seek shelter under a bridge. That only amplifies the strength of the wind.

"If you're out in a car, the first thing to do is find a public building or any building. Try to see if anyone's home, if it's safe to do so," he said.

Sales of tornado shelters claiming to withstand EF-5 winds have shot up since the Joplin tornado hit. The owner of one business tells 27 news his sales are up 300 percent.

Emergency officials say outdoor or freestanding shelters are useful for people who live in mobile homes, but for everyone else good planning is just as important.

Pritchard says the biggest tip may be to get a weather radio to give your family a little extra warning time. The radio will alert you any time the National Weather Service issues a warning for your area.

For more information, visit the Wisconsin Emergency Management site or the Dane County Emergency Management site.

For a comprehensive emergency plan template that you can create for your family, click here.

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