People across the East test their severe weather plan during statewide tornado drill

NEW BERN, N.C. (WNCT) – Schools, businesses, and other groups like the Coastal Carolina Regional Airport in New Bern tested out their emergency plans during this year’s statewide tornado drill on Wednesday.

All schools in the state are required to participate in the yearly drill, but the National Weather Service encourages everyone to review their severe weather plan.

(Tom Lonka – meteorologist – National Weather Service Newport/Morehead City)

“Know where to go when a severe weather warning is issued,” says Tom Lonka, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service  in Newport/Morehead City. “Typically at home you want to go to an interior room or a basement if you have a basement.”

Make sure that interior room is on the lowest floor away from windows and doors and doesn’t have any exterior walls. The idea is to put as many walls between you and the outside as possible. You’ll also want to think about protecting yourself from flying debris.

“If you have a bicycle helmet or a snowboarding helmet, any kind of helmet, put that on,” says Lonka. “That will protect your head from falling debris.”

At the Coastal Carolina Regional Airport, director Tom Braaten sounded the alarm around 8:30 Wednesday morning and managed to get his employees and even a few passengers safely into the airport terminal bathrooms in about 2 minutes.

“We had a few of our passengers in today, and they were very cooperative,” says Braaten. “They just jumped right into the bathrooms with the rest of us, and they understand it.”

They understand the importance of preparing for the worst while hoping for the best.

“You have to have your head in gear for all of the bad things that could happen,” says Braaten. “And if you prepare well, if one ever does happen, you really minimize the chance of injury or death.”

And that’s really the goal of the drill. Even if you didn’t participate on Wednesday, anytime is a good time to find your safe place at home and at work.

Braaten says he plan to have the airport be a part of the statewide tornado drill every year.

Here are some more general tips to consider to stay safe during severe weather:

▪ Having a weather radio that broadcasts NWS alerts when severe weather threatens. Many North Carolina tornado deaths happen at night when people are asleep and less likely to receive a warning without a weather radio, according to officials.

▪ Knowing where the nearest safe room is, such as a basement or interior room away from windows. Go there immediately if you hear or see a tornado.

▪ If driving, leave your vehicle immediately to seek safety in an adequate structure. Do not try to outrun a tornado in your vehicle, and do not stop under an overpass or a bridge.

▪ If you are outdoors and no shelter is available, taking cover in a low-lying flat area. Watch out for flying debris.

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