From time to time, GIIS Executive Director David Colmans expresses his opinion on timely issues that affect the public and the property and casualty insurance industry.
In my opinion: Why Are Those Sirens Going Off?
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The warning sirens go off in the middle of the night. What does that mean? Sadly, it can mean different things depending in the county. It could mean a severe thunderstorm watch has been issued, or a severe thunderstorm warning or a tornado watch or a tornado warning.
The outdoor warning sirens are under the control of the county emergency management agency and there are no statewide rules.
The two most likely reasons are that the National Weather Service has issued either a severe thunderstorm warning or a tornado warning. So how do you know which it is?
For the record, the sirens are intended as an OUTDOOR WARNING system, and not for those in their homes. Also, the prime intent for these sires is a tornado warning.
The most important and direct way to know what danger you may be in is a weather-alert radio for the National Weather Service. The newest models are nearly county specific so you won’t be awakened for an alert far away from you.
Severe weather can occur at any time, and you may not have a broadcast radio or TV on to receive alert information, but weather radios have a built-in alert feature that trips a warning buzzer that will usually awaken the dead. Many also have battery back-up so even if the power goes out, the radio can function for some time.
Many severe weather incidents occur at night and you can easily sleep through a warning siren and even a thunderstorm, but a weather radio alert is the best personal device for protecting yourself and your family.
It’s worth your time to call your county emergency management agency and find out what rules they use for the sirens, but a weather radio is always on duty as long as it is on and the batteries are changed at least twice a year.
Weather radios are available at your local electronics store.
In my opinion: A New Buzz Phrase Makes Sense
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March 24, 2006
There’s a new buzz phrase crossing the news wires, “A Culture of Preparedness.” Are we missing something?
We are, as a society, indeed missing the meaning of this phrase — although the Scouting Pledge has it right. We are talking about how to properly prepare for potential incidents that may threaten our safety and even our lives.
The most obvious perils for the Gulf states include tornadoes, hurricanes and occasional wild fires. Add in earthquakes and man-made not-so-natural disasters. In other words, a culture of preparedness means we all need to think ahead about we and our families will do in the event of a catastrophe.
See www.giis.org for ways to prepare for various types of disasters. Last year’s hurricanes were prime examples of what can happen when people are, and are not, prepared for a disaster.
Do your homework now. Prepare yourself and your family so you can stay informed, have a plan of action, evacuate when necessary, save lives and your most prized possessions. Be prepared!
In my opinion: Fire Deaths…So Very Sad
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March 12, 2006
The entire family is gone. Three women and six children killed in a blaze that engulfed their rural home.
The cause of the fire, officials speculate, was a wood-burning stove malfunction. The result of the fire is the deaths of nine Tennessee adults and children, a story told over and over and over.
Could the deaths have been prevented? There is no way to know for sure, but functioning smoke detectors in that two-story home could have saved the lives of some or all in that family. A couple of smoke detectors, one on each level of the home, could have made such a huge difference in the outcome of this tragic event.
While we all believe these sad events happen to someone else, the fact is that a short circuit, an overloaded electrical socket, a bolt of lightening or a careless cigarette is enough to start a chain of events and then it’s all over.
If you have smoke detectors, make sure they are in working order at least three times a year. If you need to purchase one, do so or contact your local fire department for information on obtaining a free detector. Your family’s life may depend on it.
In my opinion: Danger, Handle With CARE
February 10, 2006
Ok, we have seen the news clips of a certain adolescent pop singer mom driving her car with her baby on her lap.
Sure, Mrs. “I hate the paparazzi,” made an apology of sorts for the incident. Thoughtless behavior with helpless infants courts disaster.
Perhaps you saw how close the baby was to the steering wheel…ditto for mom. If the car’s airbag had activated, what would have happened to baby and mom? Even if there was no airbag discharge, what makes anyone believe a driver can manage a vehicle and hold a baby safely in any sort of a traffic crash?
People die often just because they are not wearing seatbelts in their vehicles…much less when the driver is not belted and holding an infant up against the steering wheel, pre-launch home of the airbag.
Bottom line: rock star or just plain mommy, everyone in a vehicle should be buckled up before the car moves…front seat and all other seats. Small children should ALWAYS be in a properly installed car seat and buckled in, not to mention never in the front seat area due to the dangers of a crash and the dangers of, you guessed it, the airbags.
That stunt wasn’t safe, it wasn’t funny and it wasn’t the action of a thoughtful parent. Think before driving. Think safety of everyone in the vehicle.
In my opinion: Why Don’t People Listen?
January 20, 2006
Tornadoes, hurricanes, violent thunderstorms, earthquakes, severe winter storms and other natural disasters have taken thousands of lives just since the year 2000 and just in the United States. In many cases, those deaths were avoidable. Public safety officials, insurance industry experts and other safety advocates constantly sound warnings, but all too often the public may hear but many do not listen. Why? The hurricanes of 2004 and 2005, tornadoes such as the Evansville, Indiana disaster in November of 2005, kill many people because, a) They did not hear the warning sirens; b) They missed broadcast alerts; c) They don’t watch the news; d) They refused to heed evacuation orders.
“Mandatory evacuation” must be a meaningless phrase to many, and there are senseless deaths along the Gulf Coast to prove it. People die in house fires from lightning and other causes because they neglect to replace the dead batteries in their smoke detector…if they even have one. Or they won’t buy a weather alert radio because it may keep them awake, as if sleeping through the night during dangerous weather is more important than living through the night. A weather alert radio will roll most everyone out of bed, giving the family precious minutes to seek shelter from a killer storm.
Why are we so inclined to prepare so little, and then complain so much when we suffer for our lack of self-sufficiency? In the South, the prediction of a snowflake in the forecast sends everyone to the grocery store to clear out the shelves. But when a major hurricane is headed directly for them, very few people make an effort to get the necessary three-day supply of non-perishable food and water that will sustain them until help arrives. Is the frequency of summer storms making us complacent? Or are we betting on the storm to change direction, rather than betting on a more surefire outcome – to take care of ourselves before the storm hits.
For less than the cost of one ticket to a sporting event, a family can have two of the most inexpensive live-saving tools in their home…one or more working smoke detectors and a working weather alert radio with battery backup.
We can debate post-Katrina/Rita disaster response all the way through to the end of next hurricane season. But the bottom line is that too many people died for lack of basic preparation; a failure to heed helpful consumer tips; and, the misguided belief that someone else would take care of the details.
A basic family evacuation plan rehearsed periodically, a supply of emergency food and water for the family; an awareness of pending bad weather, and preparation for power outages can make a huge difference. These actions are our individual responsibility, not the job of local, state or the federal government. Self-sufficiency should be first in our thoughts and actions during dangerous times. That is a do-it-yourself project we can all do.
In My Opinion: Deaths Slip By
January 3, 2006
If a plane crashes killing 21 people, the incident would be a three- to five-day news cycle, as we recently saw in Miami when the seaplane crashed after take-off with 20 aboard.
Yet, over the Christmas and New Year’s holiday weekends, a total of 21 people died just in Georgia. Another 1,347 were injured, according to the Georgia State Patrol and more than 5,300 traffic crashes were reported during the period.
Where are the public concerns and the ongoing news coverage? The local media reports fatalities where the individual mishaps occur; but the collective carnage all too often seems to attract little interest.
The state patrol makes the predictions, updates the statistics, and the weekend news reporters sometimes use them in a story. And then what?
Speed limits are rarely observed, especially when holiday travel is involved. Law enforcement beefs up its presence on the roadways. A number of tickets are written and some drunk drivers are arrested. And then what?
With all the warnings by police, high fuel costs and back-to-back holiday weekends, 21 people died anyway. A few roadside crosses will be posted, and life goes on.
Nationally we talk more about losing weight than we do about losing lives through speeding, following too closely, falling asleep at the wheel, changing lanes without warning or driving distracted via conversation, cell phones and radios.
We must not lose perspective on the death, injury and destruction on our roadways every day, much less over holiday periods.