Research: Most residents ignored Palm Coast tornado warning

Filed under DAYTONA BEACH, FLGR-PALMCOAST, NEWS

A university research study regarding emergency tornado notification found that most residents who received a warning about Palm Coast’s Starlight Tornado last December took no action to protect themselves.

That is one of six key findings of a University of Missouri-Columbia research study regarding emergency tornado notification. The research was conducted in February with the principal investigator being graduate student Stephanie Meyers of Ormond Beach.

The study report can be viewed at www.palmcoastgov.com/emergency.

The findings of the study, titled “New Media for Emergency Tornado Notification,” were based on online and telephone surveys with 1,038 residents of Palm Coast. Participation by residents was voluntary and the city paid nothing to be part of the research.

Summary of key findings
Residents could be more informed. Only about half of the residents surveyed indicated they knew there was a possibility of tornadoes in Palm Coast that day.

Most had enrolled in the CodeRED Weather Warning alert system. At the time of the tornado, 71 percent of survey respondents were registered to receive CodeRed weather warnings through a program offered by the City and Flagler County.

Warnings mostly were received via cell phones. Most Palm Coast residents received warning of the tornado through their cell phones, with the second most common delivery method being television. Younger respondents were more likely to receive the warning through their cell phones, whereas older residents were more likely to receive it from TV.

Most residents took no action. When the tornado warning was received, 55 percent of residents took no action, 41 percent chose to shelter in a safe place inside, and 4 percent went to a safe place outside.

There was adequate warning of the tornado. Sixty-six percent of those surveyed indicated they had enough warning of the tornado.

Mobile phones are important for future warnings. Respondents felt mobile telephones were 17 percent more important than any other communication device or method to receive future emergency tornado alerts.

How to sign up
Locally, the city and county work together to offer warnings and alerts regarding disasters and severe weather through the free service named CodeRED.

Local officials encourage all residents to register for CodeRED and its optional weather warnings notification system by going online to www.palmcoastgov.com/emergency or to www.FlaglerEmergency.com or by calling Palm Coast Customer Service at 386-986-2360.

Residents should update their information anytime they move or get a new phone number, as well. Because the warnings come directly from the National Weather Service, anyone using CodeRED must opt in to receive them. Enrollment is not automatic.

“We would like to thank the University of Missouri-Columbia for including the City of Palm Coast in this research study,” said Palm Coast Fire Chief Mike Beadle.

“We have already learned some things to help us better communicate with our residents during emergencies, and we plan to review the findings more closely to see what other lessons we might learn in the aftermath of the Starlight Tornado.”

As of this week, there were 16,765 users enrolled in CodeRED in Palm Coast and Greater Flagler County and 11,551 Weather Warning enrollments.

The city also encourages all residents to plan for emergencies and to know what to do during a tornado. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has a resource at www.ready.gov.

FEMA tips

If you are inside a structure:
Go to a pre-designated area such as a safe room or the lowest building level. Go to the center of a small interior room on the lowest level (closet, interior hallway) away from corners, windows, doors, and outside walls. Put as many walls as possible between you and the outside. Get under a sturdy table and use your arms to protect your head and neck.

In a high-rise building, go to a small interior room or hallway on the lowest floor possible.

Put on sturdy shoes.

Do not open windows.

In you are in a manufactured home or office:
Get out immediately and go to a pre-identified location such as the lowest floor of a sturdy, nearby building or a storm shelter. Mobile homes, even if tied down, offer little protection from tornadoes.

If you are outdoors with no shelter:
If you are not in a sturdy building, there is no single research-based recommendation for what last-resort action to take because many factors can affect your decision. Possible actions include:

Immediately get into a vehicle, buckle your seat belt and try to drive to the closest sturdy shelter. If your vehicle is hit by flying debris while you are driving, pull over and park.

Take cover in a stationary vehicle. Put the seat belt on and cover your head with your arms and a blanket, coat or other cushion if possible.

Lie in an area noticeably lower than the level of the roadway and cover your head with your arms and a blanket, coat or other cushion if possible.

In all situations:
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.

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