BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) – As storms roll across the state on Friday, the meteorologist with the Alabama Emergency Management Agency wants everyone to be prepared to make sure they stay safe.
Jim Stefkovich said he is tired of seeing the heartache that can come when severe weather strikes. He wrote an article on the state EMA website Thursday about this complicated issue – saying he is hopeful everyone will start to take more steps to be prepared.
“You could put out the greatest warning in the world,” Stefkovish said. “But, if somebody doesn’t take action, if they’re not paying attention you feel like could I have done more?”
Stefkovich spent nearly 35 years with the National Weather Service and says it breaks his heart to see the death and destruction that can come.
“Sometimes we’re more interested in what our cabinets look like and our countertops and not looking at how it’s being constructed,” Stefkovich said. “Can we build it better to withstand high winds? And the answer is, we can.”
He cites a FEMA study from this year that gives Alabama buildings a 9.3 out of 100 rating. Stefkovich said our buildings are basically being held up by gravity.
“It’s not that I’m saying builders are doing anything wrong, but we could be making our buildings much safer to withstand much higher winds than they are capable of now,” Stefkovich said.
But when it comes to those alerts for severe weather – there’s a psychological impact.
“People don’t want to have to take action unless they absolutely have to,” University of Alabama Senior Research Scientist Dr. Laura Myers said.
She has been studying that behavior for years.
“Trying to make them aware of things they take for granted like the simple severe thunderstorm, it’s real hard to get people to kind of ramp up for it and be aware of it,” Myers said. “Severe thunderstorms, they can be bad, they’re not always bad but they can be bad, and that’s what we have to be prepared for.”
Myers said it’s important to listen to those warnings and better secure our homes.
“The biggest issue is overcoming our fear of the unknown and if you’re prepared and you’re aware, you don’t have anything to fear and you’re going to be prepared for whatever happens,” Myers said.
Stefkovich said many people stream and can’t get live cut-ins when weather happens, and some people turn off those phone alerts – it’s important to have many ways Friday to get alerts.
He said you don’t have to build an entirely new home, but you can also build safe rooms within your house that can help to protect you.
Stefkovich will be publishing a second part to his article Friday on the state EMA website about more actions we can all take to stay safe during severe weather.