Are You Ready?
Tornadoes, Severe Thunderstorms, Floods, Flash Floods, Severe Cold, Ice Storms, Blizzards, and Hazardous Materials spills have all occurred within Cherokee County. These events have caused disruption of services such as loss of power and water, closed roads, schools, stores, and business and caused injuries, loss of property and most importantly loss of lives.
Preparedness is everyone's responsibility. All sectors of society - business and industry, civic and volunteer groups, industry associations and neighborhood associations, as well as every individual citizen and every family - should plan ahead for disaster. During the first few hours or days following a disaster, essential services may not be available. People must be ready to act on their own.
This section of our web site has been designed to help our citizens to become aware of the threats that are present and protect themselves and families against all hazards. The focus of this information is to identify hazards, how to develop, practice, and maintain emergency plans that reflect what must be done before, during and after disasters. The Cherokee County Office of Homeland Security-Emergency management, a division of the Cherokee Sheriff's Office is dedicated to assist our citizens prepare for, respond to and recover form all types of disaster both natural and manmade.
Cherokee County Hazards
- Winter Storm
- Heat Wave
- Wild Fire
- Tropical Cyclone
- Pack a Kit
- Family Disaster Plan
- Flood Insurance
- Pet Plan
- NOAA Weather Radio
- Shelter in Place
When is Cherokee County's Tornado Season? Tornadoes have occurred in northern Georgia including Cherokee County during every month of the year. Two times during each year, the number of tornadoes reported increases.
The Deadly Spring Season, from February through April is characterized by more powerful tornadoes because of the presence of the jet stream. When the jet stream digs south into the southeastern United States and is accompanied by a strong cold front and a strong squall line of thunderstorms, the jet stream's high level winds of 100 to 200 mph often strengthen a thunderstorm into what meteorologists call a supercell or mesocyclone. These powerful storms can move at speeds of 30 to 50 mph, produce dangerous downburst winds, large hail and the most deadly tornadoes.
During the fall, October-Mid December, tornado activity once again increases as strong cold fronts bring in the winter season.
What time of day do tornadoes occur?
Tornadoes can occur at any time of the day or night. Most often, they occur in the afternoon and evening, however many tornadoes do occur at night and these night time tornadoes have proven to be deadly. At night tornadoes are hard to see and most often resident don't get the warning because they are asleep.
TORNADO WATCH means conditions are favorable for severe weather including tornadoes.
A TORNADO WARNING means sever weather is occurring or has been detected by radar. These warnings are issued with information concerning where the tornado is presently located and what communities are in the anticipated path of the tornado.
ARE YOU READY?
- Have a way to get the warning 24 hours a day. NOAA Weather Radio is the best way to receive this warning around the clock.
- Have a family tornado plan that includes identifying a safe room in your home. It should be on the lowest level of your home, a basement is best. If you have no basement go to the center of the house, if possible a small room with no windows. Put as many wall between you and the tornado as possible.
- If you live in a mobile home get out! There is no safe place to seek shelter inside a mobile home. Go to a substancial structure and lie flat in a ditch covering your head.
Thunderstorms affect relatively small areas when compared with hurricanes and winter storms. The typical thunderstorm is 15 miles in diameter and lasts an average of 30 minutes. Nearly 1,800 thunderstorms are occurring at any moment around the world. That’s 16 million a year!
Despite their small size, all thunderstorms are dangerous. Every thunderstorm produces lightning, which kills more people each year than tornadoes. Heavy rain from thunderstorms can lead to flash flooding. Strong winds, hail, and tornadoes are also dangers associated with some thunderstorms.
Of the estimated 100,000 thunderstorms that occur each year in the United States, only about 10 percent are classified as severe. Your National Weather Service considers a thunderstorm severe if it produces hail at least 3/4-inch in diameter, wind 58 mph or higher, or tornadoes.
Take the time to understand these dangers!
- Occurs in ALL thunderstorms.
- Averages 93 deaths & 300 injuries each year.
- Causes several hundred million dollars in damage to property each year including many house fires.
- The number ONE thunderstorm killer, nearly 140 fatalities each year.
- Most flash flood deaths occur at night and when people become trapped in automobiles
- Responsible for most thunderstorm wind damage.
- Winds can exceed 100 MPH!
- One type of straight-line wind, the downburst, can cause damage equivalent to a strong tornado and can be very dangerous.
What YOU can do!
Before the storm:
- Know the County you live in and the names of the towns and communities near you.
- Check the weather forecast before leaving for outdoors activities.
- Watch for signs of approaching storm.
- If a storm is approaching, monitor NOAA Radio or local TV and radio.
- Postpone outdoor activities if the thunderstorm is imminent. This is the best way to stay safe.
- Check on those who have trouble taking shelter if severe weather threatens.
When Thunderstorms Approach:
- If you can hear thunder, you are close enough to the storm to be struck by lighning. Go to a safe shelter!
- Move to a sturdy building or car. Do not take shelter in small sheds or under trees.
- If lightning is occurring and a sturdy shelter is not available, get inside a hard top automobile and keep windows up.
- Get out of boats and away from water.
- Telephone lines and metal pipes can conduct electricity. Unplug appliances not necessary for obtaining weather information. Avoid using the phone or any electrical appliances. Use phones only in an emergency.
- Do not take a bath or shower.
- Get to higher ground if flash flooding is possible.
Extreme cold weather can come to north Georgia. Temperatures in the single digits and even below zero have occurred right here in Cherokee County.
Actions you can take!
- Stay indoors and use safe heating sources.
- Be aware of the fire danger from space heaters and candles, keep such devices away from all flammable materials such as curtains and furniture, and install recommended smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
- Indoors, do not use charcoal or other fuel-burning devices, such as grills that produce carbon monoxide. Install at least one carbon monoxide detector per floor in your home.
- Outdoors, stay dry and in wind protected areas.
- Wear multiple layers of loose-fitting, warm clothing.
- Drink plenty of non-alcoholic fluids and eat high-caloric foods.
The P’s of Cold Weather: Protect People
Protect Exposed Pipes
Practice Fire Safety
Whether you are driving or walking, if you come to a flooded road, Turn Around Don't Drown® , You will not know the depth of the water nor will you know the condition of the road under the water.
Except for heat related fatalities, more deaths occur from flooding than any other hazard. Why? Most people fail to realize the power of water. For example, six inches of fast-moving flood water can knock you off your feet.
While the number of fatalities can vary dramatically with weather conditions from year to year, the national 30-year average for flood deaths is 127. That compares with a 30-year average of 73 deaths for lightning, 65 for tornadoes and 16 for hurricanes. National Weather Service data also shows:
- Nearly half of all flash flood fatalities are vehicle-related,
- The majority of victims are males, and
- Flood deaths affect all age groups. Most flash floods are caused by slow moving thunderstorms, thunderstorms that move repeatedly over the same area or heavy rains from tropical storms and hurricanes.
Flash floods can roll boulders, tear out trees, destroy buildings and bridges, and scour out new channels. Rapidly rising water can reach heights of 30 feet or more. Furthermore, flash flood-producing rains can also trigger catastrophic mud slides.
- Monitor the NOAA Weather Radio, or your favorite news source for vital weather related information.
- If flooding occurs, get to higher ground. Get out of areas subject to flooding. This includes dips, low spots, canyons, washes etc.
- Avoid areas already flooded, especially if the water is flowing fast.
- Road beds may be washed out under flood waters. NEVER drive through flooded roadways. Turn Around Don't Drown ® If your vehicle is suddenly caught in rising water, leave it immediately and seek higher ground do not attempt to cross flowing streams. Turn Around Don't Drown ®
Even in Georgia, winter storms can be killers. Each year, dozens of Americans die due to exposure to cold. Add to that number, vehicle accidents and fatalities, fires due to dangerous use of heaters and other winter weather fatalities and you have a significant threat.
Threats, such as hypothermia and frostbite, can lead to loss of fingers and toes or cause permanent kidney, pancreas and liver injury and even death. You must prepare properly to avoid these extreme dangers. You also need to know what to do if you see symptoms of these threats.
A major winter storm can last for several days and be accompanied by high winds, freezing rain or sleet, heavy snowfall and cold temperatures. People can become trapped at home or in a car, without utilities or other assistance. Attempting to walk for help in a winter storm can be a deadly decision. The aftermath of a winter storm can have an impact on a community or region for days, weeks or even months.
Heavy accumulations of ice can bring down trees and topple utility poles and communication towers. Ice can disrupt communications and power for days while utility companies repair extensive damage. Even small accumulations of ice can be extremely dangerous to motorists and pedestrians. Bridges and overpasses are particularly dangerous because they freeze before other surfaces.
Be Prepared Before the Storm Strikes
At Home and Work
Primary concerns are loss of heat, power and telephone service and a shortage of supplies if storm conditions continue for more than a day.
- Flashlight and extra batteries.
- Battery-powered NOAA Weather
- Radio and portable radio to receive emergency information. These may be your only links to the outside.
- Extra food and water. Have high energy food, such as dried fruit, nuts and granola bars, and food requiring no cooking or refrigeration.
- Extra medicine and baby items.
- First-aid supplies.
- Heating fuel. Refuel before you are empty. Fuel carriers may not reach you for days after a winter storm.
- Use properly to prevent a fire.
- Ventilate properly.Emergency heat source: fireplace, wood stove, space heater.
- Fire extinguisher, smoke alarm.
- Test smoke alarms once a month to ensure they work properly.
- Make sure pets have plenty of food, water shelter.
In recent years, people have been killed by lightning while:
- Bike riding
- Standing under a tree
- Riding a lawnmower
- Talking on the phone
- Loading a truck
- Playing soccer
- Fishing in a boat
- Mountain climbing
- Working outdoors
Lightning results from the buildup and discharge of electrical energy between positively and negatively charged areas. The average flash could light a 100-watt bulb for more than 3 months. Most lightning occurs within the cloud or between the cloud and ground.
Most lightning deaths and injuries occur when people are caught outdoors. The air near a lightning strike is heated to 50,000°F- hotter than the surface of the sun! The rapid heating and cooling of air near the lightning channel causes a shock wave that results in thunder.
When thunderstorms approach:
Remember : if you can hear thunder, you are close enough to the storm to be struck by lightning. Go to safe shelter immediately!
- Move to a sturdy building or car. Do not take shelter in small sheds, under isolated trees, or in convertible automobiles.
- If lightning is occurring and a sturdy shelter is not available, get inside a hard top automobile and keep windows up.
- Get out of boats and away from water.
- Telephone lines and metal pipes can conduct electricity. Unplug appliances not necessary for obtaining weather information. Avoid using the telephone or any electrical appliances. Use phones ONLY in an emergency.
- Do not take a bath or shower.
- Turn off air conditioners. Power surges from lightning can overload the compressors.
Know What These Terms Mean...
- Heat wave: Prolonged period of excessive heat and humidity. The National Weather Service steps up its procedures to alert the public during these periods of excessive heat and humidity.
- Heat index: A number in degrees Fahrenheit (F) that tells how hot it really feels when relative humidity is added to the actual air temperature. Exposure to full sunshine can increase the heat index by 15 degrees F.
- Heat cramps: Heat cramps are muscular pains and spasms due to heavy exertion. Although heat cramps are the least severe, they are an early signal that the body is having trouble with the heat.
- Heat exhaustion: Heat exhaustion typically occurs when people exercise heavily or work in a hot, humid place where body fluids are lost through heavy sweating. Blood flow to the skin increases, causing blood flow to decrease to the vital organs. This results in a form of mild shock. If not treated, the victim may suffer heat stroke.
- Heat stroke: Heat stroke is life-threatening. The victim's temperature control system, which produces sweating to cool the body, stops working. The body temperature can rise so high that brain damage and death may result if the body is not cooled quickly.
- Sunstroke: Another term for heat stroke.
If a Heat Wave Is Predicted or Happening...
- Slow down. Avoid strenuous activity. If you must do strenuous activity, do it during the coolest part of the day, which is usually in the morning between 4:00 a.m. and 7:00 a.m.
- Stay indoors as much as possible. If air conditioning is not available, stay on the lowest floor, out of the sunshine. Try to go to a public building with air conditioning each day for several hours. Remember, electric fans do not cool the air, but they do help sweat evaporate, which cools your body.
- Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing. Light colors will reflect away some of the sun's energy.
- Drink plenty of water regularly and often. Your body needs water to keep cool.
- Drink plenty of fluids even if you do not feel thirsty.
- Water is the safest liquid to drink during heat emergencies. Avoid drinks with alcohol or caffeine in them. They can make you feel good briefly, but make the heat's effects on your body worse. This is especially true about beer, which dehydrates the body.
- Eat small meals and eat more often. Avoid foods that are high in protein, which increase metabolic heat.
- Avoid using salt tablets unless directed to do so by a physician.
- Participate in public water conservation meetings conducted by your local government, utility or water management district.
- Follow water conservation and water shortage rules in effect. You are included in the restrictions even if your water comes from a private well.
- Encourage your employer to promote water conservation in the workplace.
- Patronize businesses that practice water conservation, such as restaurants that only serve water upon request.
- Report water losses (broken pipes, open hydrants, errant sprinklers, abandoned free-flowing wells, etc.) to the property owner, local authorities or your water management district.
- Encourage your school system and local government to help develop and promote a water conservation ethic.
- Support projects that will lead to an increased use of reclaimed wastewater for irrigation and other uses.
- Support efforts that create a concern for water conservation among tourists.
- Promote water conservation in community newsletters, on bulletin boards, and by example. Encourage your friends, neighbors, and co-workers to "be water smart."
- Conserve water because it is the right thing to do - even when someone else is footing the bill, such as when you are staying at a hotel.
- Try to do one thing each day that will result in saving water. Every drop counts!
- Never pour water down the drain when there may be another use for it. Use it to water your indoor plants or garden.
- Make sure your home is leak-free. When you are certain that no water is being used in your home, take a reading of the water meter. Wait 30 minutes and then take a second reading. If the meter reading changes, you have a leak!
- Repair dripping faucets by replacing washers. One drop per second wastes 2,700 gallons of water per year!
Cherokee County Water Authority: http://www.ccwsa.com/
How Should Cherokee County Prepare For Terrorism?
Unlike with a Tornado or a Winter Storm, there will likely be NO WARNING for a terrorist attack. Cherokee County residents make sure that your families know what they would do to account for each other in a disaster. A Family Disaster Plan is critical and should be in place at all times. Your family's plan should include Emergency Contacts, identification of Rally Points, Disaster Supply Kits and more.
With some simple planning this can be done and help alleviate the fear of the unknown.
- Since your family is not together 24 hours a day, you need to consider how you would find each other in a disaster. Rally points (physical locations) should be identified for the most commonly frequented locations (i.e. work, school, neighbors). For example, if a crisis occurs at school — a location where both parents and child designate to meet should be included in your plan.
Before a Terrorist Incident:
- Be alert and aware of your surroundings
- Take precautions when traveling. Be aware of conspicuous or unusual behavior.
- Learn where emergency exits are located.
- Be ready to enact your family disaster plan.
After a Terrorist Incident
- If you are trapped in a building use flashlights. Protect your head and airway from smoke or debris, if trapped tap on pipe or other metal to alert rescuers.
- Untrained persons should not attempt to rescue trapped people in collapsed buildings.
- Chemical Agent – Authorities will instruct you to either seek shelter and seal the premise or evacuate.
Wildfires often begin unnoticed. They spread quickly, igniting brush, trees and homes. Reduce your risk by preparing now — before wildfire strikes. Meet with your family to decide what to do and where to go if wildfires threaten your area.
Wild Fire Safety:
- Contact the Cherokee County Fire Department at 678-493-4000 for information concerning local fire laws.
- Make sure the fire department can find your home. Clearly mark your driveway with name and address.
- Report hazardous conditions that could cause a wildfire.
- Teach children about fire safety. Keep matches out of reach of children!
- Plan several escape routes from your community by car and foot.
- Talk to you neighbors about wildfire safety.
- Create a 3- to 50 foot safety zone around your home.
- Regularly clean roof and gutters.
- Inspect chimneys twice a year.
- Rake leaves, dead limbs and twigs and clear flammable vegetation.
- Remove dead branches and shrubs within 15 feet of your home.
- Follow local burning regulations.
While Cherokee County is located away from the coast, tropical storms and hurricanes have caused great damage within our county.
There are 3 major dangers locally …..
In the last 30 years, inland flooding has been responsible for more than half the deaths associated with tropical cyclones in the United States.
Freshwater floods accounted for more than half (59%) of U.S. tropical cyclone deaths over the past 30 years. These floods are why 63% of U.S. tropical cyclone deaths during that period occurred in inland counties. At least 23% of U.S. tropical cyclone deaths occur to people who drown in, or attempting to abandon, their cars. 78% of children killed by tropical cyclones drowned in freshwater floods.
So, the next time you hear hurricane -- think inland flooding!
What can you do?
- When you hear hurricane, think inland flooding.
- Determine whether you live in a potential flood zone.
- If advised to evacuate, do so immediately.
- Keep abreast of road conditions through the news media.
- Move to a safe area before access is cut off by flood water.
- Do not attempt to cross flowing water. As little as six inches of water may cause you to lose control of your vehicle.
- Develop a flood emergency action plan.
- Have flood insurance. Flood damage is not usually covered by homeowners insurance. Do not make assumptions. Check your policy
Strong winds can accompany thunderstorms that rotate around a land falling hurricane or tropical storm. These winds can gust to over 75 MPH causing damage to structures and making driving hazardous. Strong winds combined with heavy rain can cause trees to uproot and crush vehicles and homes. The falling trees can make travel very hazardous and close roads for long periods of time.
What can you do?
- Monitor NOAA Weather Radio
- Store outdoor furniture, trashcans and other items that may become flying missiles.
- Be prepared to be without power for extended periods
- Follow generator safety rules
- Go to your safe room if winds become dangerous.
- Be ready to use your family disaster plan.
- Do not travel during the times of high winds.
Severe thunderstorms spawn by hurricanes and tropical storms can produce tornadoes well away from the point of hurricane landfall. In August of 2005, Hurricane Katrina made landfall along the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Several hundred miles eat across Georgia a record outbreak of tornadoes occurred causing major damage, injuries and deaths.
What can you do?
- Monitor NOAA Weather Radio for watches & Warnings.
- Be ready to move to your safe room if a warning is issued or you site a tornado.
- During a tornado, never take cover in a mobile home or automobile. Move to a strong structure or take cover in a ditch or low lying area that is not flooding.
- Never take cover under a highway overpass.
- Water - at least 1 gallon daily per person for 4 days
- Food - at least enough for 4 days
- non-perishable packaged or canned food / juices
- foods for infants or the elderly
- snack foods
- non-electric can opener
- cooking tools / fuel
- paper plates / plastic utensils
- Blankets / Pillows, etc.
- Clothing - seasonal / rain gear/ sturdy shoes
- First Aid Kit / Medicines / Prescription Drugs
- Special Items - for babies and the elderly
- Toiletries - hygiene items
- Moisture wipes
- Flashlight / Batteries
- Radio - Battery operated and NOAA weather radio
- Cash - Banks and ATMs may not be open or available for extended periods.
- Toys, Books and Games
- Important documents - in a waterproof container
- insurance, medical records, bank account numbers, Social Security card, etc.
- document all valuables with videotape if possible
- Tools - keep a set with you during the storm
- Vehicle fuel tanks filled
- Pet care items
- proper identification / immunization records
- ample supply of food and water
- a carrier or cage
- muzzle and leash
- Discuss the types of hazards that could affect your home and family.
- Locate a safe room within your home. This should be on the lowest level a basement is best. Put as many walls between you and the outside as possible.
- Determine RALLY POINTS.
- Have an out-of-state friend as a family contact, so all your family members have a single point of contact.
- Make a plan for your pets NOW!
- Post emergency phone numbers and make sure you children know when to call 911.
- Check insurance coverage. Flood damage is not usually covered by homeowners insurance.
- Have a disaster supply kit.
- Use a NOAA Weather Radio and remember to replace its batteries.
The National Flood Insurance Program
The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) was created by Congress in 1968 to reduce the costs associated in providing relief used for victims and damages caused by floods. The NFIP is available in 19,000 communities across the United States and over 430 communities in Georgia. Managed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the NFIP partners with insurance programs and communities reducing flood damage in Georgia each year.
The self-supporting agency operates on premiums collected from flood insurance policies freeing taxpayers of the burden. The NFIP provides insurance coverage for events traditionally not covered under homeowner’s insurance. Without the NFIP, many communities and property owners would be forced to go without coverage. Does your community participate in the NFIP? How can you obtain flood insurance through the NFIP? Do you live in a floodplain area? To find out the answers to these and many more questions:
- Contact your insurance agent.
- Contact your community’s planning or building permit office.
- Contact your local floodplain coordinator.
- Contact your local EMA Director.
- Contact the state floodplain coordinator.
- Access the FEMA Web site.
FEMA WEB SITE: www.fema.gov
Before the Disaster
MAKE SURE YOU HAVE A PET PLAN!
- Make sure that your pets are current on their vaccinations. Pet shelters may require proof of vaccines.
- Have a current photograph
- Keep a collar with identification on your pet and have a leash on hand to control your pet.
- Have a properly-sized pet carrier for each animal - carriers should be large enough for the animal to stand and turn around.
- Plan your evacuation strategy and don't forget your pet! Specialized pet shelters, animal control shelters, veterinary clinics and friends and relatives out of harm's way are ALL potential refuges for your pet during a disaster.
After the Disaster
- Walk pets on a leash until they become re-oriented to their home – often, familiar scents and landmarks may be altered and pets could easily be confused and become lost. Also, downed power lines, reptiles brought in with high water and debris can all pose a threat for animals after a disaster.
- If pets cannot be found after a disaster, contact the local animal control office to find out where lost animals can be recovered. Bring along a picture of your pet if possible.
- After a disaster, animals can become aggressive or defensive - monitor their behavior.
NOAA Weather Radio broadcasts weather information - including warnings and can be heard 24 hours a day in practically every community in the state. In fact, some communities can hear weather broadcasts from more than one radio station. This can be advantageous. Or it can lead to problems. For this reason it is important to know enough about the broadcast system to make a choice of transmitter that will give you the most protection.
Each transmitter emits an alert tone when warnings or other important weather messages are broadcast for the first time. However, no transmitter sends out the alert tones for all counties. Each tower sends the tones to a designated set of counties known as the "official service area" for that tower. The official service area is determined by a tower's ability to get a signal of sufficient strength into each county. If you want to be alerted, you will need to be sure you are tuned to a transmitter that has your county in its official service area.
Local government officials issue evacuation orders when disaster threatens or a hazardous event has occurred. Listen to local radio and television reports when disaster threatens. If local officials ask you to leave, do so immediately; they have a good reason for making this request.
Coordinate your evacuation plan in advance when creating your family's disaster plan. Ensure that you've tested the evacuation routes and that you have planned several in the instance of closed roads and routes.
- Wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants and sturdy shoes so you can be protected as much as possible.
- Take your disaster supplies kit.
- Take your pets with you; do not leave them behind. Because pets are not permitted in public shelters, follow your plan to go to a relative's or friend's home, or find a "pet-friendly" hotel.
- Lock your home.
- Use travel routes specified by local authorities — don't use shortcuts because certain areas may be impassable or dangerous.
- Stay away from downed power lines.
One of the instructions you may be given in an emergency where hazardous materials may have been released into the atmosphere is to shelter-in-place. This is a precaution aimed to keep you safe while remaining indoors. (This is not the same thing as going to a shelter in case of a storm.) Shelter-in-place means selecting a small, interior room, with no or few windows, and taking refuge there. It does not mean sealing off your entire home or office building.
- Close and lock all windows and exterior doors.
- If you are told there is danger of explosion, close the window shades, blinds, or curtains.
- Turn off all fans, heating and air conditioning systems.
- Close the fireplace damper.
- Get your family disaster kit and make sure the radio is working.
- Go to an interior room without windows that's above ground level. In the case of a chemical threat, an above-ground location is preferable because some chemicals are heavier than air, and may seep into basements even if the windows are closed.
- Bring your pets with you, and be sure to bring additional food and water supplies for them.
- It is ideal to have a hard-wired telephone in the room you select. Call your emergency contact and have the phone available if you need to report a life-threatening condition. Cellular telephone equipment may be overwhelmed or damaged during an emergency.
- Keep listening to your radio or television until you are told all is safe or you are told to evacuate. Local officials may call for evacuation in specific areas at greatest risk in your community.