If you have enrolled in Howard County’s Citizen Alert System and receive weather warnings directly from the National Weather Service, you can expect a couple of text messages March 18.

As part of a statewide drill, the weather service will test tornado warnings that Wednesday. The tests will trigger Howard County’s emergency alert system and send messages through a variety of means, including home telephones, cellular devices, email addresses or faxes.

Those tests should serve as a reminder it is time to come up with a plan for what your family will do in the event of a real weather emergency. But no one is stopping you from getting a head start on such an exercise.

The first thing you should do in putting together your plan is to assemble blankets, pillows, food, bottled water, flashlights and a battery-powered radio with extra batteries so that you’ll be able to stay informed of changing weather conditions.

Your plan should include where you’ll go when a warning is issued. The best place is in one of the innermost rooms of your home, away from windows and doors. If you have no interior rooms in your home, climb in a bathtub and cover your head with pillows or blankets.

If you’re caught outside, a car is not a good place to be in a tornado. If possible, get inside a well-constructed building, but if that’s not possible, find a low-lying area and get on the ground with your legs folded in front of you, your elbows on your legs and your hands clasped over your head.

You can sign up for emergency weather alerts at the Howard County government website, www.howardcountyin.gov. Log on to www.howardcountyin.gov and click on the “Emergency Alerts and Public Notices System” text under the “Quick Links” section. From there, it will take you to a website powered by technology provider Everbridge. You only have to give your name, address and a phone number, but you can choose several ways in which to be notified of impending storms or floods.

Tornadoes are violent, rotating cylinders of air that can reach speeds of more than 300 mph. They can be a mile wide and leave a path of destruction 50 miles long.

Tornadoes can appear suddenly with little warning, so minutes, or even seconds, can mean the difference between life and death. A tornado can move several miles in a matter of minutes, so the time to move to your safe place is as soon as you hear the warning.

The March 18 tests will be only a drill. The next time warnings are sent, the danger will likely be real.

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