Mock Disaster Readies Residents for Potential Tornadoes


American Red Cross Offers Ways to Prepare

Portraying tornado victims seeking shelter, local residents turned out Saturday alongside the American Red Cross for a mock disaster drill in an effort to prepare for tornado season. People gathered at Williams Memorial United Methodist Church on Moores Lane to take part in the simulated event.

With the guidance of Red Cross workers and instructors, disaster volunteers worked through scenarios and practiced the necessary roles for running a Red Cross shelter that included storm victim registration, feeding and dormitory management.

The Red Cross takes tornado season seriously and as such offers a free “Tornado App,” which is especially important as it puts lifesaving information in the hands of people who live in tornado-prone areas like Texarkana.


This app gives iPhone, iPad and Android smart phone – and tablet – users instant access to local and real-time information so they know what to do before, during and after a tornado. The app includes a high-pitched siren and tornado warning alert that signals people when a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) tornado warning has been issued in their area – even if the app is closed. An all clear alert also lets users know when a tornado warning has expired or has been cancelled.

“Tornadoes often happen in the overnight hours when people are sleeping,” said John Davis, Executive Director of American Red Cross in Northeast Texas and Southwest Arkansas.

“The audible alerts in this app can save lives – even if users can’t monitor the weather because they are away from their radio, TV or in places where weather band radios may not work,” he said.

The Tornado App is the latest in a series of mobile apps created by the Red Cross – the nation’s leader in emergency preparedness. Apps similar to the tornado device have been used to help save lives during hurricanes, earthquakes and wildfires.

To download the tornado app, text GETNADO to 90999 from your iPhone, search ‘Red Cross Tornado’ in the Apple App Store or Google Play, or go to Here’s what happens with the tornado app:

  • Simple step-by-step instructions appear letting you know what to do even if the cell phone towers and televisions are down. Prioritized actions for before, during and after a tornado requires no mobile connectivity.
  • You will hear an audible siren that automatically goes off, even if the app is closed, when NOAA issues a tornado warning helping to reduce the chance of sleeping through an actual warning.
  • A push notification is sent when a warning expires, which is especially important if the power goes out while you are in your safe room.
  • Help distant friends and family in tornado alley with the ability to receive tornado watch and warning alerts based on their location from the NOAA.
  • Find a map of Red Cross location-based shelters for when you need it most.
  • Be ready should a tornado hit by learning how to assemble an emergency kit for your family in the event of power outage or evacuation.
  • Reduce your household’s stress and anxiety should a tornado hit by learning to make and practice an emergency plan.
  • Preloaded content means you have instant access to all safety information at any time, even without reception or an Internet connection.
  • Know how many tornadoes have occurred in your area.
  • Know the difference between a tornado warning and a tornado watch.
  • Learn how to deal with food and water impacted by floods and power outages.
  • Let friends and family know you’re safe with customizable “I’m Safe” notifications sharable through social media, text and email.
  • Let others know where you are with the toolkit’s strobe light, flashlight and audible alert functions.

“The Red Cross has made great strides in putting vital information in the hands of people who need it during emergencies. In fact, our apps are now on more than two million mobile devices across the country,” Davis said.

But preparing for a disaster like a tornado, or other disaster, means more than just having enough an app and food and water on hand. Having an organized set of financial documents and contact information is also key to getting through a stressful event like a tornado. The Red Cross also advises the following:

  • Cash is king. Always keep some extra cash available since ATMs and banks may not be accessible and credit card systems at gas stations and stores may be down. To determine how much money to set aside, estimate how much your family would need for three days if you could not return home, the power remained out, or if you were unable to get cash from an ATM or bank.
  • Paperwork is key to recovery. In addition to having a list of medications and medical information, keep copies of these personal documents in your “Financial Go-Kit”
  • Proof of address
  • Deed/lease to home
  • Insurance policies
  • IDs and passports
  • Birth certificates
  • Social Security card
  • Marriage license
  • Legal papers

Keep these copies updated, organized and in a secure location that you can easily access in case you need to evacuate. Many people store the originals in their safety deposit box. Make sure you also have contact information for your bank and insurance company, as well as for your utility and credit card companies.

Take advantage of technology. Upload important documents such as personal and financial records to a secure backup or cloud drive that you can access remotely in case you have to evacuate.

Other ways to prepare for a disaster include creating a video log of your belongings such as jewelry, appliances and other valuables, and creating an emergency information document to record your emergency plans. More information and additional “Get Tech Ready” tips are available at

If a catastrophe strikes will you be ready, Davis asked? He said the time to prepare for a disaster is now because no one knows whether it will occur in the home, the community or across the United States.

“Being prepared is the best way to be ready. These emergencies can affect one family or an entire community. By taking responsibility for our own preparedness, we each help contribute to the resilience of our community.”

Don’t know where to start? The three keys to being prepared are to build a kit, make a plan and be informed. An emergency preparedness kit should be stored in an easy-to-carry container that someone can use at home or take with them in case they have to evacuate. It should contain:

• A three-day supply of water (one gallon, per person, per day) and nonperishable    food
• A flashlight
• Battery-powered or hand-crank radio
• Extra batteries
• A first aid kit
• Seven day supply of medications
• Multi-purpose tool
• Sanitation and personal hygiene items
• Copies of important personal documents such as ID cards, prescriptions, banking information and insurance policies

All members of a household should work together on an emergency communication plan. Each person should know how to reach other members of the household. The plan also should include an out-of-area emergency contact person, and where everyone should meet up if they can’t go home.

The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation’s blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, visit


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