How to protect yourself from extreme climatic events (29)
Nature has often been surprising us in several recent years by different extremes. The Fire Rescue Service of the South Moravian Region in partnership with the Police of the Czech Republic - the city police headquarters of Brno and Diocesan Charity of Brno will give you a piece of advise how you can prepare for dangerous climatic events such as a thunderstorm, windstorm, torrential rain, or hailstorm.
Where can you obtain information about currently threatening danger?
Most of the extreme climatic events described below are possible to be predicted well in advance. In case of expected occurrence of a dangerous climatic event the Czech Hydrometeorological Institute issues warning information. Besides the character of the dangerous event it also contains a time interval and area where the warning information applies, a risk level (low, high, extreme), and recommendation how to eliminate the danger. Apart from information given by media on forecast programmes you can learn about relevantly issued warnings on www.chmi.cz. In the South Moravian Region all the mayors of municipalities receive these warnings in text messages and emails from the Fire Rescue Service of the South Moravian Region. So, you can obtain information from them as well. In many towns and villages of the South Moravian Region, in addition to that, there is a system of informing citizens (not only) about threatening danger through text messages, which are free of charge. You just need to register at your local/municipal authority. Similar system is also provided by the county council of the South Moravian Region.
By what and how can we get endangered most often?
Thunderstorm - lightning makes the highest risk. It can cause death or serious injuries (burns) if you get struck directly. It can also cause a fire of an area or residential buildings. Another danger is made by gusts of wind (trees falling, poles or electric wires lead falling, buildings falling down, or cars overturning).
Windstorm - it is a long-lasting atmospheric event in a vast area (especially common in mountain regions). Most of the time, it comes together with a change of an atmospheric pressure, and transition of an atmospheric front. Intensity is quoted in metres per second - a windstorm from 25m/s (90 km/h). Apart from that (see above) there is a danger of a possible long-lasting blackout, an interruption of traffic routes, and suchlike.
Tornado - it is a local atmospheric eddy with an area scope of hundreds of metres with a high intensity of a storm activity. It may cause vast damages in a very short time (in minutes or several dozen of minutes) - e.g. in Litovel, June 2004.
Snow calamity - is long-lasting intensive snowing. It can result in a several day interruption of local transport service, interruption of food and electricity supply. It can damage vehicles, and roofs of buildings due to the weight of snow. The number of injured people also increases (slipping on a slippery surface, snow and ice falling down the roofs, avalanches in the mountains, etc.).
Torrential rain - is hardly predictable intensive rain (it does not necessarily need to be followed by a storm). It results in suddenly flooded cellars and basements of residential houses, and roads, in blocked drainage and narrow bridges with mud, leaves, and suchlike. Then, there might appear erosion on unpaved roads and in fields, and gardens, too. Next, there might be land slides, dams of ponds may burst, and loose objects may get damaged and washed away. Watercourse sides might get damaged, too.
Hailing - it is a local short-term downfall of icy hails of different sizes. Damages on property (windows, greenhouses, vehicle bodywork, or vegetation) are caused by hails from 2cm in diameter. Hails 5cm and more in diameter (very rare) might cause serious injuries to people and animals.
How to protect yourself
You are at home:
In case of all climatic events (see above) we advise you to stay at home, and if it is not necessary, do not go out at all.
If you have time to do protection measures, in all cases mentioned above we recommend checking if you have closed all windows and doors. Fix loose objects around the house (garden), or put them away if possible. Take pets and animals to a safe place. Move your car into the garage, etc. Additionally:
- In case of a thunderstorm unplug the aerial and electrical appliances (except the refrigerator and freezer), and get ready for a possible blackout (prepare candles and matches). After the storm check the surrounding of your house (a danger of fire from a stroke of lightning, and other damages caused by rain or wind).
- In case of a windstorm be particularly careful with the windward side of the house - there is a danger of damage of windows and doors by floating and flying objects.
- In case of a tornado keep out of windows and rooms right under the roof. Find a safe room on lower floors or in the middle of the building. Even though a tornado is an attractive event, never leave your house and do not open windows for a better view! You can easily get killed by tornado. When the tornado is over, check the condition of your house and see if your neighbours are safe and sound. Help all tornado-struck ones (getting out of the ruins, first aid, calling the rescue team and emergency service).
- In case of danger of snow calamity try to supply yourself with long-life food (if your grocer's is within a walking distance). Do not go out by car unnecessarily. Get ready for possible long-lasting blackout. Check the level of snow on the roof of your house regularly (especially in case of flat roofs) - if it exceeds 50cm, clear it away.
- In case of torrential rain check firmness and water resistance of the roof and windows continuously. If your house is on a hillside, be ready for a possible sudden flood and mud torrent, which could damage the adjacent side of the house (in the last resort even a collapse). After the torrential rain try to check the statics of the house and damages in the surrounding as fast as possible. Help also other affected people.
- In case of hailing protect the skylights (with a blanket, fixed clothes) and a car if you have parked in the street (with canvas, or a blanket). After you have finished, especially check all windows and a condition of roofing.
In all the cases above applies one rule: always, if you have been caused any material damage, do not forget to document it well (photos, camera) for the needs of the insurance company (damage compensation).
You are outside:
If you are outside, in all cases try to find a shelter in the nearest building as quickly as possible (a shop, office, restaurant, or in high emergency even e.g. a shelter in the forest, a bridge with enough space for hiding, and suchlike). Next we will focus on a situation when you will have to last out emergency in the open air.
Do not linger unnecessarily at open and high spots in the countryside in any of the cases above. In most cases it is dangerous to linger close to streams or waters. If electrical wires fall down on the ground, by no means you are to touch them or get close to them. If you already are in close proximity to them, try to move away from them by making tiny steps. Next:
- in case of a thunderstorm mind that there is no place safe enough from a stroke of lightning. You can prevent yourself from a danger by not carrying any metal objects (e.g. even an umbrella). Do not hide under solitary trees or close to electrically conductive objects. Do not make any phone calls during the thunderstorm. Try to find a low-lying places (a valley, a foot of the hill) with short vegetation far enough from poles and wiring. Wait until the storm is over. You can estimate the distance between you and the storm according to the time interval between a flash of lightning and a crash of thunder. Approximately, if you divide the number of seconds between the flash of lightning and a crash of thunder by three, you will get a number of kilometres how far the thunderstorm is from you. Do not leave your shelter unless the time interval between the flash of lightning and a crash of thunder reaches at least 15 seconds (i.e. the storm is approximately 5km away).
- in case of a windstorm do not linger at the edges of steep hills or river banks. You may fall down in a sudden gust of wind. Another danger is made by floating and flying objects. Therefore, try to hide in a firm shelter. Be careful in the forest - unstable trees may fall down. In the forest, hide by a trunk firm and massive enough (unless the windstorm is followed by a thunderstorm). In residential areas you are endangered by falling parts of buildings (roofing, flower pots, gutters, or scaffolding) and wiring.
- In case of a tornado try to get out of its reach as fast as possible. If there is no a solid building nearby, run perpendicularly to the directions of the tornado, or find a shelter e.g. in ditches or other uneven grounds in the terrain.
- In case of a snow calamity try to get to a residential place as quickly as possible. You are endangered by the loss of sense of direction, exhaustion, and growing cold. Move carefully and beware of dangerous spots covered by snow (ditches, streams, ice...). If you are not able to move yourself to a safe place, call the emergency line 112.
- In case of torrential rain (unless it is followed by a thunderstorm) try to find a shelter far enough from watercourses and steep hills, which are endangered by a sudden rise of water level, or landslips.
- In case of hailing hide under the nearest tree or bridge. If you are in the open terrain, at least protect your head with your hands, bag, or jacket.
If you get injured or you are not able to get to a residential area in any of the situations above, call for help (line 112).
You are in the car:
If you are in an enclosed car (not in a convertible car with a canvas roof), your car may function as a sufficient transitional shelter or a means of escape for all the climatic events described above. The only risk for you and your car would be strong hailing (car bodywork and windows damage), tornado or windstorm (a danger of overturning of your car).
In all cases you need to evaluate the situation well. If a climatic event is coming, it is safer for you to escape quickly. If you have already been affected by the event, go very slowly, or stop at a safe place free of danger of falling trees or crashing into another car in low visibility. Next:
- during a thunderstorm do not touch any metal parts of your car, and do not get out of the car (there is a danger of stroke by electric discharge while stepping into a paddle).
- During a windstorm reduce your speed or stop your car, preferably facing the direction of the wind (side wind makes a higher risk of car overturning).
- During a tornado try to get out of the direction of tornado as quickly as possible. Your car may not protect you well enough if the wind eddy is enormous. If you have already got hit by tornado, stop at a place free of danger of falling objects on your car and wait until the tornado is over.
- In case of a snow calamity consider the condition of the road, the distance and road profile of the road you are following. If you are impossible to pass safely, try to park and wait for roadmen. If you have already got stuck on the road, make sure your car is visible (indicator lights, a warning triangle). If your car is hindering the traffic, inform the police (line 112). In case of a total traffic jam with a high probability of being stuck in the car for several hours safe your fuel. Turn off all unnecessary gadgets (AC, radio, lights) and heat the car up with the engine only. If you are running out of fuel, start the engine only for a necessary period of time to heat the car up. Wait calmly for the arrival of the rescue team in the car.
- In case of torrential rain stop at a safe place, where you will not be endangered by a flow of water or mud on the road, and wait until the rainfall ends.
- In case of hailing (hails exceeding 2 cm in diameter) stop anyway. There is a danger of serious damage of your windscreen and bodywork. If there is a blanket or useless clothes in your car, try to cover at least the windscreen, which is endangered most.
When the climatic events are over, first of all, check the condition of your car, especially the tires, windscreen, and bodywork. If everything is alright, continue to run very carefully - roads might be damaged or blocked.