By Erica Thomas, managing editor
TRUSSVILLE — After an already active weather season, emergency officials say Alabamians should pay extra attention to severe weather preparedness in Jefferson County. This week is Severe Weather Preparedness Week 2021.
Jefferson County EMA Director Jim Coker said here in Alabama, our tornado season is year-round.
“Just a few weeks ago, we saw why we have got to prepare every single day of the year here,” Coker said.
Coker was referring to the EF-3 tornado that damaged or destroyed just under 300 buildings. In all, 61 businesses were impacted and one person killed when the tornado ripped through parts of the county on Jan. 25, 2021.
Melissa Sizemore, with the Jefferson County EMA said relief efforts continue in Fultondale, Center Point and other parts of Jefferson County.
“We’ve been working really hard and really diligently with the city of Fultondale and the city of Center Point to be able to provide the people that have been affected with the resources that they need to start their steps towards full recovery,” said Sizemore.
The EMA has assisted in donations and rebuilding efforts.
Coker said it is important for everyone to be weather aware and to be prepared to receive severe weather warnings. The county uses Everbridge Mass Notification System, which is free, and tornado sirens. On Jan. 25, Coker said Everbridge notified over 50,000 contacts in the polygon, in under one minute. Sirens within the polygon sounded. There were 59 sirens activated more than once. Of those, nine were damaged but eight of those have since been repaired.
“You need multiple ways to get your warning,” Coker said.
Other options are weather radios, local news sources and local weather apps.
As for tornado shelters, EMA officials say it is important to know where your shelter is and when it will open. When it comes to the coronavirus pandemic, Sizemore said it is important to always focus on the immediate threat to your life.
“When you’re seeking shelter in other places with people that may be outside of that COVID bubble, social distance as much as possible, wear a mask and pack hand sanitizer,” Sizemore said.
Coker said this Severe Weather Preparedness Week, he wants to remind everyone to stay weather aware, especially when the National Weather Service issues a tornado watch because if that is the case, there is a strong possibility a warning could be issued at some point.
“You don’t want to start your planning when the warning comes out, you want to already have your plan in place,” Coker said.