Storms, a natural phenomenon caused by violent atmospheric disturbances occurring over land and water, represent a major potential threat to the entire population of the earth because of their prevalence, the size of areas devastated and the scale of the resulting damage.
There are several different types of storms distinguished by the strength and characteristics of atmospheric disturbances. These are tropical cyclones (typhoons and hurricanes), extra tropical cyclones (winter storms and blizzards), monsoon type storms, tornadoes and thunderstorms.
Certain violent winds, which affect limited areas and the names of which vary from country to country (for example, Bora, Chinook, Foehn, etc.) can be regarded as storms and calI for special preventive, protective and intervention measures.
The different types of storms, their frequency, the seasons during which they occur and the areas usualIy threatened can be established with some precision but their occurrence and trajectory cannot, until they are already developing. The preventive and protective measures are decisive in such cases and the establishment of meteorological institutes and observatories in each country is necessary to enable the risks to be predicted and the political authorities, firms and population to be warned and advised accordingly.
2. Preventive and protective measures
The damaging effects of different types of storms are generalIy known to the authorities and inhabitants of the various regions and areas at risk. It is recommended that, if need be, new arrivaIs and tourists contact the public services to find out about the likely risk of a storm in the season when they usually occur and the preventive measures and instructions relevant to such situations.
At the community level the damage caused by storms can be avoided, or at least limited, by:
1. Permanently monitoring weather conditions and appraising the atmospheric turbulences that could affect the national territory or particular areas.
2. Co-operating with the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) of the United Nations (UN) to strengthen technical and technological assistance and to implement appropriate measures against destructive natural phenomena.
3. Establishing construction regulations requiring more resistant structures and prohibiting building on areas particularly at risk because of exposure to violent winds, etc.
4. Determining the probable outcome of a particular event and issuing information bulletins (alarms, protective measures) to the authorities and the general public.
5. Establishing weIl-equipped management and rescue teams trained in the preventive, assistance and rescue measures needed to respond to the different types of storms likely to strike a built-up area or region.
6. Training the population, and those in charge of security in companies, in the principles and application of preventive, protective and behaviour measures, with a view to reducing the damage caused by a storm.
3. Intervention and rescue measures
As soon as the risk of a major storm is identified through meteorological observations and forecasts, news bulletins from foreign stations or the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), the national (meteorological services), regional and local services take the appropriate protective measures (observation and warning, interruption of air, sea, river, road and rail traffic, instructing the population on the rules of behaviour and survival to be followed). Consultation with meteorological experts is of paramount importance, as is knowledge of the type of damage caused by past storms.
The management of protective, search, rescue and assistance operations is the responsibility of the local and regional authorities which ensure the coordinated deployment of the necessary civilian and military means of intervention. Requisitioning and using civil engineering equipment, strengthening materials and rescue equipment (small boats, walkways, buses, etc.) and measures to assist the homeless, sick and wounded, as well as priority repairs to the infrastructure, must be the object of appropriate and detailed planning.
When damage occurs to buildings or whole areas, vital components of the infrastructure (electrical installations, public transport, etc.) or to the environment, such as forests, a technical check and assessment of the immediate threats must be carried out by qualified personnel who should reconnoitre the site and identify the dangerous elements. It is essential that rescue teams and the stricken population be protected from the indirect consequences of the storm or of a fresh outbreak (winds changing direction notably during a hurricane).
4. Instructions for the population
4.1 General preventive and protective measures to be taken before a storm
- Conform to the planning regulations and to building standards and norms.
- Seek information on the risk of storms in the region where you are staying and on the established protective and rescue measures.
- Prepare and keep at hand an emergency survival kit for all the family. This should contain identity papers and personal documents such as medical certificates, vaccination records and blood group details and personal medicines together with a portable radio and a torchlight with spare batteries.
- Seek emergency shelter (in a bomb shelter or basement) or if this is not available in a very safe room in the centre of the building, without windows if possible, furnished with solid furniture under which you can shelter. Equip this room with emergency items for all the family (personal belongings, candIes, matches, tools, food and water, blankets or sleeping bags).
- Prune dead branches from neighbouring trees and if need be cut down weak trees to prevent them from falling on the building. Secure light and weak structures, especially mobile homes or caravans or shelters that can be dismantled.
- Designate a meeting point for aIl family members in case the storm occurs whilst they are at school, work, etc., and therefore not together, or in case your home is destroyed.
When the storm is imminent:
- Close aIl doors and windows and reinforce shutters and blinds with planks and panels that are solidly nailed on.
- Reinforce glass windows with stars or crosses of sticky tape.
- Move inside aIl furniture and other objects likely to be swept away by the wind or water.
- Avoid leaving the house or shelter and do not send the children to school.
- Do not use boats or motor vehicles. If in mid-journey, make your way to the nearest shelter as quickly as possible.
- Assemble cattle in the most solid barn but do not tie them up and leave them supplies of fodder and water.
- If no solidly built garage is available, park vehicles where they are sheltered from the wind, lower their windows, put on the hand-brake and, if possible, secure them to the ground.
4.2 During the storm
- Keep calm and avoid panic.
- Assist neighbours and persons in difficulty, such as the wounded, children, handicapped and the elderly.
- Assemble everyone in the emergency shelter specially equipped for this situation, and keep a supply of drinking water.
- Listen to the radio but do not use the telephone without good reason, as this overloads the system.
- Do not leave the building, keep away from windows and display cases. Do not use a vehicle without permission from the rescue squads.
- Follow the instructions given by the authorities and by the intervening bodies, especially as regards the evacuation of people and livestock. If it is necessary to evacuate, cut off the gas, water and electricity supplies.
- Lock the door.
- If caught by the storm whilst outside or in a vehicle, leave the vehicle and seek refuge in the nearest building. If this is not possible, lie down in a ground hollow, a cave, or behind a solid mass of rock and protect your head from objects blown away by the wind. Cling onto the ground.
- During a thunderstorm protect yourself from lightning by keeping away from metal objects, switching off the electricity supply, telephone and television. Avoid standing up in an elevated area or sheltering under a tree. Stay in your car.
4.3 After a storm
- Keep calm and do not panic.
- Stay at home or inside the building in which you have sheltered. Do not use vehicles because of traffic problems and danger from damaged buildings and roads.
- Listen to the radio and follow the authorities' instructions. Only use the telephone in an emergency.
- Check to see if there are people nearby which are wounded or in difficulty and assist them.
- Do not go near, touch or use damaged electrical installations, cables and wires and alert the
relevant authorities to the damage. The same applies to ruptured water or gas mains,
sewers, hydrocarbon pipelines and reservoirs holding chemical substances.
- Drink water only after having boiled it or used chlorine tablets to purify it.
In case of long electricity cuts regularly check the contents of refrigerating units and dispose of ruined foodstuffs.
- Collaborate, if required, with the rescue and assistance services and help with vital priority repairs and rehabilitation work.