Sometimes, even being prepared isn't enough

Thursday, June 12, 2008

By all accounts, campers and staff at the Boy Scout camp in western Iowa did their best to live up to the motto, "Be Prepared."

The tragic fact that four boys were killed is a reminder of how capricious the powerful summertime storms can be. The storm struck with little warning, but Scouts and leaders reacted as quickly as they could, just as they practiced only a few hours earlier. Who would have guessed that a fireplace would not be a safe place to find shelter from the storm? Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of those killed.

But many stories of heroism were being told this morning, and we're sure the individuals associated with the organization will emerge stronger and more determined to continue the Boy Scout mission once the shock of the tragedy is overcome.

The twisters, as well as the photos in Wednesday's edition of the June 11, 1928, McCook tornado, are a good reminder that it's important to be just as prepared as the Boy Scouts were and just as quick to take action.

First of all, have a plan in place at all times, long before a storm approaches. Next, monitor commercial broadcasts, NOAA Weather Radio or Internet weather sites for signs of dangerous weather.

When the warning is sounded, if you're inside a substantial structure like a home, small building, school, factory, hospital or nursing home, go to a pre-designated shelter area like a safe room, basement, storm cellar or the lowest building level. If there's no basement, go to the center of an interior room on the lowest level, away from corners, windows, doors and outside walls. Get under a sturdy table and use your arms to protect your head and neck. Don't open windows.

If you're in a vehicle, trailer or mobile home, get out immediately and go to the lowest floor of a sturdy nearby building or storm shelter. Mobile homes, even if tied down, offer little protection from tornadoes.

If you're outside, with no shelter, lie flat in a nearby ditch or depression and cover your head with your hands. Be aware of the potential for flooding, however. Do not get under an overpass or bridge; you are safer in a low, flat location.

Never try to outrun a tornado in urban or congested areas in a car or truck. Instead, leave the vehicle immediately for safe shelter.

Watch out for flying debris. Flying debris from tornadoes causes most fatalities and injuries.

People can still be killed or injured despite all of our preparations, as the Iowa camp experience indicates. But doing our best to "Be Prepared" can tip the odds in our favor.

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