Voluntary statewide tornado drill happened Wednesday, largely unnoticed

Writer: Derrick Shaw
Published: Updated:
Tornado. CREDIT: MGN

A statewide voluntary tornado drill happened on Wednesday but many people were not aware.

Despite the drill at 10 a.m., no alerts were sent to phones and no emergency tone was played on weather radios.

National Weather Service Meteorologist Dan Noah said, “The alert we sent this morning was a test message. We didn’t want to start all of the wireless emergency alerts on your emergency broadcast system. We didn’t want to do that. So, what we did is we sent this test message, and most weather radios will not alarm for a test message.”

Lee County said they participated by encouraging people to sign up for and use Alert Lee to keep on top of emergency messages.

A Lee County spokeswoman added, “Tornado sirens are not used currently in Lee County. As the National Weather Service Tampa Bay said last month to media at its Lee County press conference at our EOC, tornados like what we had recently are rare in Southwest Florida – they are more common in North or Central Florida.”

Noah said, “We can’t force people to prepare for tornadoes. But we do know, and especially Southwest Florida knows, you’ve had six tornadoes in the last two months, they occur, they’re going to impact somebody, and it could be you.”

The National Weather Service said the sirens are expensive to install, expensive to maintain, and they create a liability if one fails to work.

How a Drill Works

On the morning of the drill, all participants should consider themselves under a Tornado Watch. A Watch means you should monitor the weather and be prepared to go to a safe place in the event of a Warning. At approximately 10 a.m. EST, the National Weather Service will issue a practice Tornado Warning. The Warning will be broadcast on NOAA Alert Radio as a “routine weekly test” message.

Public and commercial broadcasters are encouraged to participate by broadcasting these messages immediately. For the Florida Panhandle counties within the Central time zone, all drill activities will be repeated one hour earlier (9:00 a.m. CST).

In real life, you must listen for the Watch and Warning messages to determine the threat to your area, and decide which protective actions to take. When in doubt, take immediate protective action! Plans may vary depending on the number of adults present, how vulnerable your location is, communications or other factors. All Floridians should use the tornado drill to develop and practice their severe weather plans. Being prepared saves lives!

Statewide Tornado Drill Timeline

School districts, private schools, preschools and daycare centers are urged to participate in the drill. The tornado warning will be broadcast on NOAA Weather Radio and will be encoded as a weekly test for this drill.

  • In the weeks before the drill
    • Prepare
    • Inform staff
    • Review and refine a tornado plan (go to http://www.spc.noaa.gov/faq/tornado/safety.html for more information)
  • February 9: The Day of the Drill
    After 8:00 a.m. EST
    Consider a Tornado Watch to be in effect
    • Announce watch to staff and/or students
    • Designate authority (coordinator)
    • Evacuate tornado vulnerable areas
  • 10:00 a.m. EST
    Tornado Warning
    • Receive test message
    • Upon determination of immediate threat, give “take shelter” or “duck and cover” command (depending on space available at location)
  • 10:30 a.m. EST
    Termination of Watch and Warning
    • Give instructions to return to normal activities (You will not receive notification. Terminate the drill as you see fit.)
  • After the Drill

    • Following the drill, assess and revise plan as needed.

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