On Thursday, Governor Mary Fallin announced several severe weather initiatives the state has been undertaking since last May's devastating tornado outbreak. The preparedness initiative is designed to keep Oklahomans safe during severe weather season.
The announcement came with the introduction of a set of new public service announcements (PSAs). The PSAs urge Oklahomans to take steps now in advance of storms. There are four PSAs for television broadcast and one for radio, which is also offered in Spanish.
Progress on three new programs was also highlighted during the news conference, including the formalization of a public/private partnership program. The state has long worked with the private sector during and after disasters, however this program will help to streamline communications between government and the private sector. One example is power outages after a tornado or ice storm. OG&E, Public Service Company of Oklahoma (PSO) and the Oklahoma Association of Electric Cooperatives (OAEC) are actively working with the state to identify ways to help expedite power restoration following severe weather emergencies.
Additionally, Lamar Advertising has stepped forward to partner with the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management (OEM), Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT) and National Weather Service (NWS) by committing space for severe weather alerts and information on its network of 25 digital billboards in the Oklahoma City metro area and 21 in the Tulsa metro area.
Safe Schools 101 is a new program developed by OEM and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The program trains architects, engineers, emergency managers and other local officials to assess school buildings for safe room options as well as to identify safe refuge areas already existing in schools. Since the program launched, Safe Schools 101 teams have assessed 31 schools and trained more than 200 people, said OEM Director Albert Ashwood.
The National Weather Service (NWS) Norman Forecast Office's Meteorologist in Charge David Andra provided updates on the Governor's Task Force on Weather Safety, a group made up of representatives from NWS, OEM and chief meteorologists from television stations across the state.
Since the task force was formed in August of last year, a set of tornado safety guidelines has been agreed upon by all members. The guidelines include specific tips including the need for multiple warning systems and how to take shelter during tornadoes and other severe weather.