Spring has officially arrived. For those of us in the Midwest and Northeastern corridor who have endured a very long, cold, and snowy winter, spring usually signals the beginning of the end to shovels, coats, boots, and snow blowers. But for some sections of the U.S., spring signals the beginning of tornado season, a time when devastating storms can tragically claim lives and destroy everything in their paths within seconds.
According to a recent article published by the Weather Channel, Spring 2014 is turning out to be a record breaker. For what, you might ask? Number of rainy days? Number of above average temperatures? No. It’s neither of those. Spring 2014 is the longest fatality-free start in 99 years according to information obtained from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Storm Prediction Center which began a database in 1950 to maintain tornado records. This spring marks the first calendar year within the era of tracking of not having any tornado fatalities this late into the season. That is definitely good news.
While we can only hope that this spring continues to be free of the catastrophic tornadoes that we have seen in years past, preparation is vital for survival. Ready.gov offers the below tips for how to prepare before a tornado hits:
- Build an emergency kit and make a family communications plan.
- Listen to NOAA Weather Radio or to commercial radio or television newscasts for the latest information. In any emergency, always listen to the instructions given by local emergency management officials.
- Be alert to changing weather conditions. Look for approaching storms.
- Look for the following danger signs:
- Dark, often greenish sky
- Large hail
- A large, dark, low-lying cloud (particularly if rotating)
- Loud roar, similar to a freight train
- If you see approaching storms or any of the danger signs, be prepared to take shelter immediately.
After a storm, disaster victims also need to be on the lookout for dishonest and unscrupulous contractors. While it may seem unimaginable that anyone would try to take advantage of victims during such a vulnerable time, it can and does happen. The NICB offers the following tips to help avert being victimized twice.
- Work with only licensed and insured contractors.
- Get more than one estimate. Don’t be pushed into signing a contract right away.
- Get everything in writing. Cost, work to be done, time schedule, guarantees, payment schedule and other expectations should be detailed.
- Require references, and check them out.
- Ask to see the salesperson’s driver’s license; write it down. Also, take down his or her license plate number.
- Never sign a contract with blanks. Fraudulent contractors may enter unacceptable terms later.
- Never pay a contractor in full or sign a completion certificate until the work is completed.
- A catastrophe greatly magnifies the opportunity for fraud and abuse. Don’t be tempted to conspire in a fraudulent insurance claim. Insurance fraud is a felony.
- Insurance coverage may be rendered void if there is misrepresentation by an insured.
For more information on preparing for tornadoes and other disasters, visit Ready.gov and DisasterSafety.org. For more information on how to avoid being victimized by disaster fraud and other types of fraudulent schemes, visit www.nicb.org. To report fraud of suspicious activities, call 1-800-TEL-NICB (835-6422).
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