HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – On the 40th anniversary of the 1974 tornado outbreak, the National Weather Service recognized Huntsville International Airport as one of only 12 airports across the country designated as StormReady.
StormReady, a program started in 1999 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, helps arm America’s communities with the communication and safety skills needed to save lives and property–before and during the event. StormReady helps community leaders and emergency managers strengthen local safety programs.
“This is the culmination of a months long process with the National Weather Service, the Huntsville/Madison County EMA and the Huntsville/Madison County Airport Authority,” explains Authority Director of Operations Kevin Vandeburg.
The StormReady designation does not mean the airport is certified as a storm shelter, but there is signage posted to direct people to public restrooms – the safest windowless places in the airport if weather threatens – and employees are now equipped to know when to make the call to usher folks in.
To be recognized as StormReady, a site/community must:
- Establish a 24-hour warning point and emergency operations center
- Have multiple ways to receive critical severe weather information (i.e. warnings) from the NWS, and effectively disseminate this information
- Have a system that monitors local weather conditions
- Promote the importance of public readiness through community seminars
- Develop a formal hazardous weather plan, including regular outreach and emergency exercises.
“It’s also understanding how to communicate with not only the National Weather Service but how are you getting that information like warning information to passengers here in the airport or to workers that are out on the ground prior to events,” explains Dave Nadler of NWS.
Nadler says the StormReady honor isn’t just handed over. Airport employees and operations personnel participated in training to learn things like the difference between a watch and a warning and what to do before and after a severe weather event.
“You’re building that up and you’re enhancing education and knowledge and of course you’re building a relationship between the National Weather Service and the airport.”
Becoming StormReady does not stop at training. It also gave airport operations personnel a chance to evaluate and fine tune their existing severe weather readiness plan.
Madison County as a whole was also designated as a StormReady County in 2012. The program began with seven communities in the Tulsa, Oklahoma area. Today there are nearly 2,200 StormReady sites and communities.