Don't get alarmed: 1 million to practice tornado drill today

Monday - 3/14/2011, 2:36pm EDT

Hank Silverberg, wtop.com

RICHMOND, Va. - The events in Japan remind everyone how quickly disaster strikes. On Tuesday in Virginia, more than 1 million people are expected to practice for one.

A tornado drill is scheduled for 9:45 a.m. The National Weather Service will broadcast the drill over the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration weather radio system.

"It's just a really good time to stop what you are doing and follow some emergency procedures," says Laura Southard with the Virginia Department of Emergency Management.

To start the drill, the weather service will send a test tornado warning that will trigger a tone alert and broadcast message on NOAA Weather Radio. This will prompt radio and television stations to broadcast a tone and message.

Once the warning comes, people participating in the drill should move to a designated tornado safe area, such as a basement, bathroom, closet or hallway. Officials say participants then should crouch down or sit on the floor, facing down, and cover their heads with their hands.

More than 1 million people have signed up to participate in the drill. Southard says the practice also presents a good opportunity to check your emergency kit.

The kit should include three days of food that doesn't need electricity to prepare, along with three days of water and a battery-powered radio. Southard says having some cash on hand in small bills is also a good idea, in case banks can't operate.

The state has more suggestions here.

"The reason we have the tornado drill in March is that the weather starts getting a little bit dicey, and when you've got windy conditions and thunderstorms it often is conducive to tornadoes," Southard says.

There were 62 tornadoes in Virginia in the past three years, injuring 220 people and causing $48 million in damage.

For more information about the drill, click here.

You can consult WTOP's Emergency Planning Guide for additional resources.

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