Storms prove that preparation is key

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The tornado that recently struck Atlanta wasn't a typical disaster because tornadoes are rarely seen in the downtown area of major cities, and because so much of the insured damage was focused on one location: the Georgia World Congress Center and surrounding buildings.

Upwards of $250 million in insured damage occurred statewide, according to Georgia's insurance commissioner, John Oxendine. Several insurers set up a joint insurance claims center in the parking lot of an Atlanta MARTA train station.

It wasn't difficult for first responders to handle what ultimately became a statewide situation with multiple weather events, which speaks volumes for training and disaster plans that can be put into action on a moment's notice.

This should serve as a reminder that although the severe weather season in Georgia has been one to remember, we are still more than two months away from the start of the 2008 hurricane season.

As reporters spoke with witnesses about the severe weather across the state, the usual "it sounded like a train coming" was a common statement.

What was particularly troubling were the numerous comments from these individuals who said they were awakened by the storm, not because they were asleep, but because they should have been awakened earlier by the alarm of a severe weather radio going off in their homes.

The news media gives good information if someone is listening, watching or on the Internet. In the middle of the night, only warning sirens and weather alert radios can help save lives.

This was not a one-time event that can be dismissed. These two storm days emphasize that:

- Families and businesses should have disaster plans.

- Weather alert radios that are county-specific are a must-have for all households and businesses.

- Any place in the state is subject to the anger of Mother Nature.

DAVID COLMANS IS THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE GEORGIA INSURANCE INFORMATION SERVICE. Contact him at dcolmans@giis.org or (770) 565-3806.


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