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Do you have a safety plan for severe weather?

First responders say you should know what to do, where to go within minutes

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – In the wake of a deadly tornado that ripped through a rural Alabama community, first responders reminded people to be prepared and have a plan.

According to officials, everyone should know what to do and where to go with just a few minutes notice.

Here's what ready.gov says you should do if you are under a tornado warning:

  • If you can safely get to a sturdy building, then do so immediately.
  • Go to a safe room, basement or storm cellar.
  • If you are in a building with no basement, then get to a small interior room on the lowest level.
  • Stay away from windows, doors and outside walls.
  • Do not get under an overpass or bridge. You’re safer in a low, flat location.
  • Watch out for flying debris that can cause injury or death.
  • Use your arms to protect your head and neck.

RESOURCES: How to stay safe when a tornado threatens | How to stay safe when a thunderstorm threatens | Develop a family emergency plan

If you are under a thunderstorm warning, ready.gov says you should find safe shelter right away:

  • When thunder roars, go indoors.
  • Move from outdoors into a building or car.
  • Pay attention to alerts and warnings.
  • Unplug appliances.
  • Do not use landline phones.

Click here for more on how to make a plan so you and your family will be ready if a disaster strikes.

From the vault: Disaster drill tests Jacksonville family of 12

On Monday, News4Jax revisited a story from May 2013 when a family on Jacksonville's Northside was put to the test. We went to the two-story home of Orlando and Melanie Brown, who have 10 children, and staged a disaster drill without telling them much because we wanted the drill the to be as realistic as possible. We gave them 10 minutes to gather the family and all their belongings as if it were an emergency.

"Alright. Let's go guys. Let's go grab the babies," Orlando Brown said.

The family rounded everyone up and went to a safe place.

"Go go go go, pantry" Melanie Brown said.

They counted and, sure enough, all 12 Browns were inside the pantry.

"We got everybody. We got head counts. Everybody's there with supplies and water and everything we need until somebody comes to help," Orlando Brown said.

The Browns shattered our expectations -- getting everyone into their pantry in less than two minutes. 

"Definitely an 'A.' There's no doubt," said Randy Wyse, president of the Jacksonville Association of Firefighters.

2013 VIDEO FROM THE VAULT: Family executes safety plan in under 10 minutes

Wyse, who News4Jax brought in to watch over the drill, said it was a job well done. 

"With as many kids as you have and being able to control those in this environment is fantastic. And the place you chose was perfect. I mean, I heard you talk about the bathroom, how you probably couldn't all fit in there. You're right. With that many children, it's true," Wyse said. "But if it's just a couple, a lot of times, the bathtub -- if it's a cast iron bathtub -- it's very good to get in."

Wyse said the gallons of water and food in the closet would be a big help if the Brown's house collapsed around them and they were trapped until rescuers got to them. He did notice one thing they could have done better, though. While the family's safety is  No. 1, Wyse said that the Browns forgot to grab their important documents.

"If you know the alarm goes off and they're telling you you've got 10 minutes, you can take 30 seconds and grab those documents, especially your insurance papers, because if you have damage to your home, the insurance adjuster is gonna come in and having them is gonna make it a whole lot easier," Wyse said. "Birth certificates (for) of all the children, if you have to go to a shelter, that's gonna help you or if you're applying for aid."

Once the exercise was over, the Browns were able to go back to everyday life with a little confidence that if severe storms were to come knocking, they'd be ready.

"It does feel good to know that we can react quickly and if there's something that comes up, they're listening and doing what needs to be done quickly," Melanie Brown said. "The older ones being responsible or helping us be responsible for the little ones comes in handy."

"To me, it was like great to see them all in there," Orlando Brown said. "And everybody ran pretty fast and on point. So, yeah, I'm very pleased."

Wyse pointed out it's important that you have a different plan for other emergencies.


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