Prepare for severe weather before it's too late

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The deadly tornadoes that swept across the South last week clearly caught many people off guard because this is midwinter. Even those who paid close attention to radio and TV and knew there was a high chance of bad weather were, in many cases, blasted by the tornadoes.

A woman interviewed on TV talked about the really great home evacuation plan she and her family had just created -- after their home was destroyed by a tornado.

I talked to a home-based-business owner who lost not only the home but also the two family cars in the garage.

It was sad that so much in the home for both personal and business use was destroyed. Because he didn't have a home inventory, the family had no proof of all its losses.

Coincidentally, it was Severe Weather Awareness Week across Georgia when at least 55 people died from the tornadoes in the Southeast.

What made me shake my head was the college student who told a reporter she and her friends heard the tornado siren "but didn't think too much of it" until someone saw the tornado coming that destroyed her dormitory. She was lucky.

These are stories that we hear over and over. Another disaster hits; people die or are seriously injured; homes, buildings, schools, churches and commercial facilities are torn to shreds -- and all people can talk about is what they didn't have and how thankful they are to be alive, or how devastated they are that "everything was lost."

Although you can't keep the storms away, there are things you can do to keep you and your loved ones safe and replace as much of your property that can be replaced:

- Keep a weather alert radio on at all times (they have a silent mode that only activates when there is a weather warning).

- Change the batteries every six months in smoke detectors and weather radios.

- Keep battery-or crank-powered flash lights easily accessible in the house.

- Keep a hand-crank radio handy so that, even if the power goes out,you can say informed.

- Write and practice an evacuation plan for your family before something bad happens.

- Create a home inventory and store the information in a safe place away from the home or apartment. You can download a free home inventory program at

Though the recent tornadoes were called a "freak winter storm system," spring is not far away, and that's the time for more frequent tornadoes, hailstorms and high winds.

Just when we're done with spring, the summer hurricane season will get under way and the Gulf Coast states are again in harm's way.

How prepared are you in the event of a disaster or emergency? Go to and participate in the poll.

David Colmans is the executive director of Georgia Insurance Information Service. Reach him at (770) 565-3806 or

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