The American Red Cross is urging residents in Nebraska and Iowa to make sure households, schools and business are prepared for possible severe weather including rain, strong winds and possible tornados.
"Listen to weather alerts and designate a safe space where people can gather for the duration of the storm," said Tina Labellarte, Region CEO. "The area should be a basement, storm cellar or an interior room on the lowest floor away from windows."
The American Red Cross Tornado App is available in English or Spanish and gives iPhone, iPad and Android smart phone and tablet users instant access to local and real-time information, so they know what to do before, during and after a tornado.
The free app includes a high-pitched siren and "tornado warning!" alert that signals when a NOAA tornado warning has been issued. This feature allows users to make critical decisions and to take actions to help keep themselves and their loved ones safe even in the middle of the night. An "all clear!" alert lets users know when a tornado warning has expired or has been cancelled.
Other features of the app include:
*Location-based NOAA tornado, severe thunderstorm and flood watch and warning alerts;
*Enhanced weather maps and information provided by Weather Underground, a digital brand of The Weather Company;
* One touch "I'm safe" messaging that allows users to broadcast reassurance to family and friends via social media outlets that they are out of harm's way;
*Preloaded content that gives users instant access to critical action steps, even without mobile connectivity;
* Toolkit with flashlight, strobe light and audible alarm; and
* Locations of open Red Cross shelters.
"If a tornado is threatening your area, listen for alerts and warnings, grab your emergency preparedness kit and head to your designated safe area," Labellarte added.
The Tornado App, along with other apps, can be found in the Apply App Store and the Google Play Store for Android by searching for American Red Cross or by going to redcross.org/mobileapps. People can go to redcross.org/tornado for more safety tips.
As with any disaster, preparation can be the difference between life or death. The Red Cross recommends that individuals and families prepare for tornadoes by:
* Creating and practicing a Home Tornado Plan: Pick a "safe room" or uncluttered area without windows where family members and pets could seek shelter on the lowest floor possible: a basement, a center hallway, a bathroom or a closet. Putting as many walls between you and the outside provides additional protection.
* Assembling a Emergency Preparedness Kit: Kits should contain a first aid kit and essential medications, foods that don't require cooking or refrigeration and manual can opener, bottled water, flashlights and a battery-powered radio with extra batteries and other emergency items for the whole family.
* Heeding Storm Warnings: Listen to your local radio and TV stations for updated storm information. A tornado WATCH means a tornado is possible in your area. When a tornado WARNING is issued, go to the safe room you picked to protect yourself from glass and other flying objects. If you are outside, hurry to the basement of a nearby sturdy building. . If you are in a car or mobile home, get out immediately and head to the nearest building for safety. If you are outside and there are no buildings, lie flat in a low lying area or ditch and cover your head with your arms and hands.
* Preparing for High Winds: Make trees more wind resistant by removing diseased and damaged limbs, then strategically removing branches so that wind can blow through. Install permanent shutters on your windows and add protection to the outside areas of sliding glass doors. Strengthen garage doors and unreinforced masonry. Move or secure lawn furniture, outdoor decorations or ornaments, trash cans, hanging plants and anything else that can be picked up by wind and become a projectile.
For more information on tornado preparedness, contact the Nebraska/SW Iowa Region of the American Red Cross at (402) 343-7700, visit www.redcross.org/neia or call 1-800 RED CROSS.