Mercy Hospital Northwest Arkansas has been recognized by the National Weather Service (NWS) in Tulsa as a StormReady Supporter.
The StormReady program gives communities the skills and education needed to survive severe weather - before and during the event. StormReady is a voluntary program developed by the National Weather Service in partnership with the emergency management community to help emergency managers strengthen their local hazardous weather operations.
The guidelines are intended to ensure the community has the tools necessary to receive and disseminate life-saving National Weather Service warnings throughout the community. Educational activities within the community that focus on the potential impacts of severe weather are also an important aspect of the program to ensure citizens are prepared for a quick response once they receive the warning information.
“One of the aspects that the StormReady program emphasizes most is redundancy,” said Steve Piltz , Meteorologist-in-Charge of the Tulsa NWS Office. “It is important for communities to have multiple systems in place so if one system fails, others can be relied upon to both receive and disseminate National Weather Service information.”
The City of Rogers was recognized as a StormReady Community in August 2010, and Benton County became the 1000th StormReady jurisdiction in November 2005. The StormReady Supporter program was recently developed to provide entities within already-designated StormReady communities an avenue to improve and develop their hazardous weather operations. The program is intended to also recognize those entities within a community that promote and practice severe weather awareness and preparedness.
“The StormReady program has provided an excellent assessment tool for our local governments to examine our capabilities in receiving and delivering severe weather warning information,” said Mike Dixon, Director of Benton County Emergency Management. “Extending this program to the private sector will enhance the safety of our community and we commend the efforts of the management of Mercy Hospital Northwest Arkansas for getting to this level.”
According to the program’s guidelines, StormReady communities must have multiple ways to receive severe weather warnings and to alert the public to the threat; they must have established a communication center from which emergency response efforts can be coordinated; they must promote the importance of public readiness through education and training; and they must have a formal hazardous weather operations plan that is utilized during significant weather events. Because of their hard work to prepare for disasters such as tornadoes and wind storms, StormReady communities are also better prepared to handle all disasters, both natural and manmade.
“Communities have fewer fatalities and lower property damage if they plan for disasters that potentially threaten them before the disaster occurs,” said Ed Calianese, Warning Coordination Meteorologist of the Tulsa NWS Office. “No community is storm proof but StormReady is designed to help communities save lives.”
According to National Weather Service statistics, at least 49 tornadoes have occurred in Benton County since 1950. Twelve of those tornadoes reached the strong category producing wind speeds from 110 to 165 mph. Tornadoes resulted in at least 28 injuries and more than $20 million in property damage since 1950 in Benton County.
“If our facility was to experience a disaster, the most likely cause would be a severe thunderstorm or tornado,” said Safety and Security Manager Eric Will. “Knowing that, we work to constantly improve our ability to handle the weather disasters that could affect the patients, staff, and visitors of our hospital.”
Mercy Hospital Northwest Arkansas has a command center that is staffed with key personnel whenever severe weather threatens, and utilizes numerous means to receive warnings directly from the NWS, to monitor local weather conditions, and to relay warning information throughout the facility.