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Fire News in Focus
by Adam K. Thiel

Department preplanning for tornadoes

It's been a horrific tornado season from coast-to-coast and we're not done yet

By Adam K. Thiel

Editor's note: With dozens dead as tornadoes ravage the Midwest, check out Chief Adam K. Thiel's tips on the preparations you and your department should be making.

My heart broke Monday morning when I turned on the news to see images of the devastation in Joplin, Missouri.

Naturally, Joplin firefighters were part of the initial response and several successful rescues have been reported.

It's been a horrific tornado season from coast-to-coast and we're not done yet.

Beyond the obvious lessons we've (re)learned from the recent twister outbreaks, it's important to (re)consider our departments' continuity of operations plans for surviving such an event.

  • How do our personnel get notified of severe weather conditions?
  • When do we evacuate fire stations in a tornado's path? When do we tell our responders to stop taking calls and seek shelter, instead?
  • Where do we get assistance when specialized services are needed?

And perhaps most importantly, how do we take care of our firefighters' families before, during, and after a tornado?

We know our members will always be on the frontline, in any disaster.

We owe it to them, and to our communities, to make sure we have current plans to keep them safe and functional in the aftermath.

About the author

With more than two decades in the field, Chief Adam K. Thiel FireRescue1's editorial advisor is an active fire chief in the National Capital Region and a former state fire director for the Commonwealth of Virginia. Chief Thiel's operational experience includes serving with distinction in four states as a chief officer, incident commander, company officer, hazardous materials team leader, paramedic, technical rescuer, structural/wildland firefighter and rescue diver. He also directly participated in response and recovery efforts for several major disasters including the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Tropical Storm Gaston and Hurricane Isabel.

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